Meeting his childhood hero, Al Pacino, the Hollywood actor on the red carpet when he was 20 years old, left Daniel Boggi speechless and star struck. It also made him more determined to pursue his childhood dream to become a famous actor. Yet, unknown to Daniel, this dream would not turn out how he expected.
Born Claudio Boggi in 1986, Daniel, who later changed his name, was raised in North London by his father and mother along with two sisters. He was very close to his grandmother, the matriarch of the family. She was like a mother to Daniel, and he adored her. She had a major role in the family business where she helped her son, Daniel’s father, to run their popular Italian restaurant in Camden Town.
The restaurant was a celebrity hangout spot and frequented by actors, celebrities, and famous personalities such as Frank Bruno, the British former heavyweight boxer, and Sir Trevor McDonald, the ITN newsreader and presenter. And so, Daniel grew up watching celebrities coming in and out of the restaurant, which thrived under his grandmother’s helm, and made a lasting impression on his young mind.
When he was 10 years old, Daniel’s home life changed. His parents divorced, and he and his sisters suddenly found themselves going back and forth between two homes. This created confusion and left the siblings feeling unsettled and desperately unhappy. “It affected us big time. You are meant to love your mum and dad both the same, and they were meant to love us both the same. And it was just like we had to go to Camden and then to Finchley. All this travelling, it was like where am I? It was just confusing,” Daniel recalls in a pained tone.
“As a teenager, I was into the Incredible Hulk (the comic character). I was a very good imitator, and I would become that character. As I got older, I used to do Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and I became good at it. People were always impressed and would say “wow, you are really good”. And I was good at acting, but I was not myself. I was not the real me.”
Mimicking celebrities fed his growing interest in drama and fantasy. It helped him to escape and cope as a child living under the cloud of divorce. By the time he was 23, Daniel had an agent and was going to auditions. He also worked in the fitness industry while studying to be an actor.
“My first roles were television commercials, and they paid well. But I found them to be boring; I was just sitting around a lot, and I did not like that. So, I decided to get into theatre. I got into Shakespeare, but I did not know what it was – back there was a lot of demonic forces in Shakespeare. Anyway, let’s not get into that, but it’s not with Jesus Christ basically.”
Darkness creeps in
Although the darker side of acting was slowly being revealed to Daniel, he still wanted to fulfil a longing he had to visit Los Angeles. Daniel said, during this trip, something possessed him. “In Hollywood, it’s a demonic world, and I was possessed by something, and Satan had a hold of me. And because of that I brought it back to this country (England). And what was going to happen, was going to happen eventually.”
Daniel’s theatre career began to take off when he got a role in the British production The Fiddler (not the Fiddler on the Roof). His performance was highly rated, and it looked like stardom beckoned. Then his beloved grandmother died; Daniel was deeply affected by her death. Without her influence at the helm, the restaurant’s success began to fade, and the family business, which had lasted for 55 years, soon closed.
By 2011, Daniel was living with his father, and life just seemed meaningless. He was experiencing severe depression. The acting was also having a negative impact on him. Bombarded with suicidal thoughts, the obsession grew, and Daniel started researching ways to end his life. A breakup with a girlfriend, the unwanted living situation with his father, coupled with his grandmother’s death was Daniel’s breaking point.
Saved by Jesus
“I was waking up every morning and not wanting to be here. So, in the end, I went to Harrow shopping centre, to the fourth storey of the shopping centre, and tried to end what God had created and destroy everything. I did not want die, I just wanted to come back as something else. I looked up and said to my grandmother, “it’s time”. And I cried out to Jesus, but I didn’t even know Jesus, I just called his name. But the Bible says those “who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21 NKJV). And I was. I know Jesus saved me.”
Daniel jumped and survived the fall; however his extensive injuries, including brain damage and temporary blindness, left him in a coma for four weeks. He suffered a broken spine, feet and pelvis – the official diagnosis was polytrauma. Daniel spent over one year in hospital and the doctors said he would never walk again.
Daniel had a group of Christian friends who visited him. They were also praying for him as he had asked. Because of their influence, Daniel’s interest and enthusiasm for the things of God increased. He began praying and reading his Bible. Daniel felt led to repent for his sins; he started fasting and praying and seeking God more. It was during his time that he had a life changing vision of Jesus.
“I was there looking at the persecution of Jesus (on his way to the cross). I watched as he was being beaten up like I never seen anyone get beaten up before, and there was blood everywhere. And someone came up to me and I said, “why are you not helping him out, why are you not helping your saviour, your master?” But I could not help him. And Jesus turned around and looked at me, but I could not see his face; he had tears, scars and blood pouring down his face. But it was Jesus, and the look on his tear stained seemed to be saying this is what I did for you.” This experience changed Daniel instantly: it was the wakeup call he needed. Daniel decided to give his life to Jesus and become a follower of Jesus Christ.
Becoming a new creation
Today, 10 years later, Daniel is a street preacher and evangelist.”I was born Claudio, but Claudio was a mess. So, my name was changed to Daniel. I wanted to kill myself about five times in my life, and the church that I went to really saved my life. That feeling has gone now; it has been cancelled. This year is first time I have not felt like that.” Daniel says this Bible verse speaks to his situation: “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 NKJV).
He encourages anyone feeling suicidal not to act on those feelings. He advises they should get into a relationship with God first. “Suicide is a very delicate thing, and my advice for people feeling like that really depends on who I am talking to and what they are going through. But I would say try to stop worrying about what will happen tomorrow. The Bible says to ‘be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV).
Through prayer, reading the Bible and his church’s support, Daniel overcame depression and suicidal thoughts. He relies on the Bible verse, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). He adds, “I was always scared, but it was the wrong kind of scared. Now I just fear the Lord.”
Daniel says he has forgiven himself for trying to take his life. He has also made remarkable progress in his ongoing recovery. “It is difficult because my hips don’t move, but I have made a lot of progress. I have these special boots from the NHS (National Health Service), and I have been able to stand and walk with sticks.” He says this Bible verse perfectly describes his experience: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV)
Daniel believes what was meant to destroy him turned out to be the very thing God used to save him. “God uses what you have achieved in your past. I was a top actor, but God has taught me you need to be more like me, which is a servant. I work for God now; I’m a servant of God and an ambassador of heaven. And I have my own YouTube channel, Daniel Boggi, and it’s all for His glory.”