Daniel Radcliffe has teamed up with his Harry Potter stunt double, who became paralysed after an on-set accident, for an HBO documentary.
David Holmes worked closely with Radcliffe on the Harry Potter films until he sustained a spinal injury during filming for The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 in January 2009. The gymnast from Essex, who was selected to play Radcliffe’s double in the first film, broke his neck and was paralysed from the chest down.
The forthcoming documentary, titled David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, is executive produced by Radcliffe and debuts in November. It will feature candid personal footage shot over the last decade, behind-the-scenes material from Holmes’s stunt work, scenes of his current life and intimate interviews with Holmes, Radcliffe, and others.
“The film is a coming-of-age story of stuntman David Holmes, a prodigious teenage gymnast from Essex, England, who is selected to play Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double in the first ‘Harry Potter’ film, when Daniel is just 11,” the official synopsis from HBO said.
“Over the next 10 years, the two form an inextricable bond, but on the penultimate film a tragic accident on set leaves David paralysed with a debilitating spinal injury, turning his world upside down. As Daniel and his closest stunt colleagues rally to support David and his family in their moment of need, it is David’s extraordinary spirit of resilience that becomes their greatest source of strength and inspiration.”
HBO said the film, which is directed by British filmmaker Dan Hartley, reflects universal themes of living with adversity, growing up and forging identities in an uncertain world.
Holmes, who is now 42, has previously revealed details of his tragic accident, which occurred during a flying scene at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden.
In an interview with the Mirror in 2014, he said he was pulled backwards “at speed” by a high-strength wire in a “jerk back” stunt that replicates the effects of an explosion. However, Holmes was launched into a wall and immediately broke his neck.
He has said the new HBO documentary tells the story of not just his achievements in front of the camera, “but also the challenges I face every day, and my overall attitude to life after suffering a broken neck.
“In the turbulent world we find ourselves living in right now, I would like to quote Harry: ‘We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.’”
Holmes also thanked medical staff, Radcliffe and the Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, for their support. Writing about Radcliffe, he said they were both “immensely proud of our time on the Harry Potter films, and the joy and comfort it brings to audiences around the world on a daily basis.”.
It is not the first time Radcliffe and Holmes have collaborated since the Harry Potter films – in 2020 the pair joined forces to launch Holmes’ Cunning Stunts podcast, which features interviews with other stunt performers across Hollywood.
“I think there’s a myth around stuntmen that they are just superhuman in some way,” Radcliffe said of the podcast at the time. “When the public see something really painful or horrible, they think it was a visual effect or that there’s some clever, safe way of doing it. Often that’s not the case.
“There’s no way of faking, for example, falling down stairs. When you get hit by a car, you’re still getting hit by a car, even if it’s going slower than it would. They find the safest way of doing it, but it can still hurt.”
David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived will premiere in the US on HBO and Max on 15 November and be available in the UK on Sky Documentaries and streaming service Now from 18 November.