Jacquieline Davis risks her life for a living. Over the course of her three decade-long career as a bodyguard, she's been stabbed in the leg and shot at by snipers. She's rescued children from dangerous hostage situations and protected families with active hits out on them. She's also rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, as detailed in her book The Circuit — Davis was J.K. Rowling's personal bodyguard for four years. For all this, Davis was world-renowned.
Come 18th January, Davis, now 58 years old, will be able to add another accomplishment to her resume: movie inspiration. In the Netflix movie Close, Noomi Rapace plays a steely bodyguard named Sam assigned to protect the bratty scion of an oil fortune, Zoe (Sophie Nélisse). According to writer and director Vicky Jewson, the character Sam is entirely based on Davis.
Before Jewson encountered Davis, Close was just a hazy idea of a movie. "I knew I wanted to tell the story of a real woman that was in the action world, so I did a lot of research about different jobs that women can have that are dangerous and require a specific skill set. We hadn't seen those stories on the screen," Jewson told Refinery29 over the phone. Then, Jewson met Davis — and Close narrowed.
During the research process, Jewson was entranced by Davis' stories of her extraordinary daily life on the job, from getting caught in Pakistani-Kashmiri crossfire to staying in six-star hotels after working 16-hour days. In fact, when they met, Davis was just finishing up a six-month assignment of protecting a child being pursed by assassins, on Putin's orders. "That all inspired Close," Jewson said.
Though Close's hostage crisis storyline is entirely fictional, the movie's handling of said situation is accurate. Davis was on hand throughout writing and filming to make sure each aspect of depicting bodyguards' work was accurate. She looked out for small details a layperson wouldn't think of: How would a hostage actually get taken? How would a bodyguard in England — who can't carry a firearm — protect her charge? How can a bodyguard resist forming personal attachments? How does a bodyguard's higher-than-average level of paranoia affect his or her decision-making?
"She weaved in authenticity," Jewson said. Three decades' worth of earned authenticity, to be specific. In 1980, Davis left her job as a policewoman to become a bodyguard. While on the force, Davis had already been "freelancing" as a bodyguard, protecting Saudi families after her day job ended. By going full time, Davis became became Great Britain's first woman bodyguard (though the number is still slim — currently, women only make up one in ten bodyguards in the U.K).
Sam, on the other hand, arrives to the bodyguard profession via a more 21st century route. Jewson envisioned Sam first working in counterterrorism before going into close protection. "We thought she’d been in military and police and had hit a glass ceiling with what she could and couldn't do, and decided to go into the world of close protection because it gave her a lot of freedom and could be on par with the men," Jewson said. "She could still be in the line of fire."
Biographical discrepancies aside, Sam is significantly modelled off Davis, who visited set early on during the filming process. "Noomi got to soak up Jacqui's personality and her character tics and we were able to put that into Sam’s character," Jewson said.
The characters also share an outlook. Jewson was struck by Davis' willingness to put herself in the line of fire for altruistic purposes. "She has this real inner drive to help people and make the world a better place," Jewson said. Sam and Davis are adrenaline junkies, sure — but they use their disposition to help others.
With the hit BBC show Bodyguard and now Close, Davis' profession is all over pop culture. Close, however, provides an especially novel perspective on the industry by focusing on a woman bodyguard. Since women bodyguards go against the stereotypical look — brawny, tall men — they actually have an advantage in the field.
"We can sit in a restaurant and look as if we belong there, or go shopping with a client. People think we're a friend, not a heavy. It's much more discreet," Laura Webb, who runs a bodyguard agency that specialises in women bodyguards, told The Telegraph. According to Jewson, when Davis is with clients, onlookers often assume she is a wife or a woman companion. In the case of emergency, blending in could provide Davis with a few crucial moments of protection.
Davis is an advocate for more women joining the profession. But until Close, Davis resisted having a movie about her life being made. "She wanted something that felt intimate and respectful," Jewson said. Close is a collaboration between subject and filmmaker. "She’s very happy with it."