‘The Boy Who Lived’ subject David Holmes has yet to watch the new heart-wrenching documentary — but trusts Daniel Radcliffe to produce his story
David Holmes, who performed the franchise’s stunts until an on-set spinal injury left him paralyzed from the chest down, is the subject of a new HBO documentary produced by longtime friend Radcliffe. David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived (debuting Nov. 15 and available to stream on Max) opens with footage of the stunt performer, now 42, spinning mid-air on Harry’s broomstick and dodging explosive dragon fire.
“I used to fly,” says Holmes in the documentary’s first moments. “Not so much anymore.”
“I wanted to make something about Dave for years because he's extraordinary and I wanted to share that with the world,” Radcliffe, 34, tells PEOPLE.
“I was trying to do it myself,” the actor adds with a sheepish grin. “We shot some stuff and I didn't really know what I was doing… For some reason, I thought I might know how to direct a documentary. I absolutely didn't.”
Radcliffe and Holmes then turned to Dan Hartley, who worked as the video operator on the Harry Potter films, “because Dan's an actual director,” says Radcliffe. With Hartley on board, they shifted the project’s focus from a broad look at stunt performers to just Holmes’ life before and after his accident.
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For Holmes, The Boy Who Lived proved an opportunity to collaborate again with “some members” of that clan, including producers Vanessa Davies and Amy Stares, originally the Potter films’ publicist and assistant director, respectively. “On this project, the family has been able to come back together again,” says Holmes, “to tell my story.”
That story hinges on the January 2009 accident in which the stunt performer, while test filming for the franchise’s final two installments, broke his neck while being propelled backward into a wall.
Now a wheelchair user — and host of the Cunning Stunts podcast — Holmes tells PEOPLE he’s “really honored that my legacy on film is not just me hitting that wall 14 years ago. And I'm understanding the responsibility that lies with not just representing [not just] myself, but a wider community of all the disabled people that will be absolutely finding parallels with their own life with my story.”
He adds, however, that he has yet to see The Boy Who Lived himself.
“I am not ready to watch it yet,” he explains, nodding to Radcliffe and Hartley. “I know that these guys have done an amazing job. I know that it was made with love and sensitivity, and that's enough for me right now.”
Holmes has spent the years on what he calls a “neurological journey” since his accident, in and out of the hospital and physical therapy for complications arising from his initial spinal surgery. “I've been using film and TV and storytelling to get me through it,” he says. “I know in my life there'll be a time I'll get into bed and I won't get out of it.”
When that day comes, Holmes says, he’ll be ready to see the era of his life depicted in the documentary. “I'd like to look back on myself with all the hope and optimism that I live with now," he shares.
Radcliffe says that the filmmaking team has “shown it to as many of Dave's friends and family as we possibly can… I'm fairly confident we've done him proud.”
“Quite a lot of people that were high on that list were the people in my peer support group in the disabled community,” adds Holmes. “It was very important to me that disability is represented right along this journey.
“And knowing that I have a team of Avengers that are wheelchair users or people from all different aspects of the disability spectrum that have seen this thing and said, ‘No, it's really empowering and it's really positive and you're going to do a good thing for the world,’ those opinions are the ones that matter to me.”
David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived premieres on HBO and streams on Max Nov. 15.
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