“Harry Potter” Stunt Team Member Looks Back at Time on Set
When Nicholas Daines read the Harry Potter books two decades ago, he knew he had to find a way to be a part of the magic. The stunt performer has had a successful career, with 111 credits listed on IMDb, but he says the Potter films are a project he’ll never forget.
Chatting with MuggleNet via Zoom, Daines says a lot of his current jobs are on hold due to COVID-19, but during this downtime, he’s been reflecting a lot on his time on the Potter film sets. It’s a project he calls “amazing” and “one of the major highlights of a stunt career.”
“I wanted to be part of the Harry Potter franchise from the word ‘go,'” Daines remembers. “But getting in is a different story.”
Daines first auditioned to be a member of the Quidditch team for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. However, then 28 years old, Daines was told he looked too old to pass as a student at Hogwarts. He didn’t give up. Daines finally got his break six years later, when he was cast in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as the double for actor Arben Bajraktaraj, who portrayed Death Eater Antonin Dolohov.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he finally made the roster and joined other stunt performers on the Quidditch team. Daines, a former internationally competitive gymnast and high diver, says most of the Quidditch players had a similar background to his.
“So it’s perfect for spatial awareness, and I’ve been jumping off things for as long as I can remember. This is real natural progression for me, falling off broomsticks mid-air, flights, and falls,” says Daines.
Daines says a lot of research went into finding ways to make free falls and mid-air collisions look natural. The stunt team ended up using Russian swings, which have a suspended platform that moves freely around an axis. One person stands on the back of the platform, pushing the swing back and forth, while the team member at the front of the swing launches themselves off.
“To do [the] landing in the mud that you see in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we were actually launched off the front of a quad bike, deliberately, driven by the coordinator,” says Daines, laughing at the memory.
When asked what his favorite memory from the set is, Daines says standing in for Daniel Radcliffe is something he’ll never forget.
Radcliffe had four stunt doubles. One day, none of them were available, but Daines was. He hopped on a broomstick with two other members of the stunt team to set up a shot of the characters Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, and Cormac McLaggen hovering on brooms during tryouts. It wasn’t a fancy bit of stunt work, but for Daines, a genuine fan of the series, it was something he’ll never forget. After all, not everyone gets to be the Chosen One.
It was all pretty great and the stuff that dreams are made of, especially if you are a fan of the books. It was getting to live everything that was in those pages and bringing it to life. It was just a very, very special experience.
Daines has gone on to work on projects like Wonder Woman and the Star Wars films, as well as both Fantastic Beasts films, but he says Potter holds a special place in his heart.
I wanted to be part of it so much that I chased that dream and I actually did then become a part of it. And I think what’s great about those Harry Potter films and the books and the messages through it, although it is in the wizarding realm, I related it to my own life and, I think anything is possible if you really go for it. You can create your own magic.
You can watch our interview with Daines below or read the full transcript.