Bexley man blinded in horrific school accident on his way to Hollywood
PUBLISHED: 11:47 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:48 14 January 2014
When Danny Howard was blinded in one eye at school at just seven years old, his dream to become a professional footballer was destroyed.
But now he has overcome the tragedy and launched a growing film career that is putting him on the screen with some of the biggest names in British cinema.
Danny, 35, is making a name for himself playing “hardman” characters in films including Three Stops Down from Plaistow and has also appeared in adverts.
He has brushed shoulders with the stars on set and attended glitzy film premieres, most recently for Danny Dyer’s latest movie Vendetta.
Danny said his distinctive right eye and “London” accent inherited from his childhood around Welling, makes him the gangster many directors are looking for.
“My eye was a negative turned into a positive,” he said.
“I used to be the shy person who wouldn’t even look at someone and now I’m on the big screen.
“I’m being very typecast but it’s ok and if that’s what I’m good at, let’s go for it.”
Danny, who still lives in West Woodside, Bexley, started off in small independent films like 2013’s Scarred, which was made on an estimated budget of just £500.
But his increasing profile has put him in the running for a large part in a “big soap”, which he narrowly missed out on, and £500million films starting production later this year.
Danny said: “It’s not my full-time job at the moment but I’m hoping that this year will be the turning point.”
2014 is not just a special year for his career – he will also be marrying his partner of four years, Charlotte Blake.
The pair have a son, two-year-old Blake, and also live with Charlotte’s daughter Scarlett, six.
The idyllic picture would have seemed like an impossible dream though Danny’s troubled teenage years.
He has had nine operations on his eye in total and it took almost a decade for his family to win £16,000 compensation from Bexley Council.
Danny said the terrible accident happened during a teacher’s strike, when there was only one dinner lady supervising the vast playing field at East Wickham School.
He said: “I was hanging out by the willow tree down the bottom of the field and I heard a girl call my name.
“The branches went right down to the ground and as I walked through, I felt something hit my face.
“One of the branches had gone into my eye and broken off.”
Not only did the accident cause blindness in the damaged eye, but years of soreness and discomfort as well as painful taunts at school.
Danny said he spent a lot of the compensation money on a moped and “being a teenager”.
“I just wanted to be happy after that,” he added.
After school, he studied a recreation and leisure course at Bexley College before starting an air conditioning business with his brother, where he still works part-time.
Danny got his first, small, taste of stardom in 2003 as an extra in long-running police drama The Bill.
He did not even consider acting as a career until 2009, when he started a drama course.
The change came after a decision not to have his injured eye removed and replaced with a glass eye.
Instead, he had painful retina transplants and cosmetic lenses and studied his new craft at City Academy Drama School, RADA and Pinewood Studios.
“I never imagined I would be in this career,” he said.
“Maybe when I was younger I thought ‘yeah, I can do that’, but I never wanted to do it at school.
“I love it. I love being on set and meeting people – it’s just fun.”
His ultimate dream is to become the next James Bond villain but in the meantime, he is moving Hollywood closer to home with a film based in Thamesmead.
Streetz, which Danny is producing, focuses on young people in the area slipping into crime.
He is also helping charities in the area with film premieres.
One helped raise £1,000 for a terminally ill mother and her two children to go on a dream holiday.
Danny wants to encourage other people who have suffered mentally or physically during their life to turn their traumatic experiences into a strength.
He said: “Obviously, I would rather have my two eyes all day long, and people say I would still have been a good actor anyway.
“I never thought I could do this but it just goes to show what anyone can do if they want to.”