Daniel Radcliffe almost made his directorial debut with the documentary “David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived,” about his “Harry Potter” stunt double who was left paralyzed after a tragic on-set accident.
At the London premiere of the HBO and Sky doc, Radcliffe Zoomed in from New York City — where he’s currently starring in the Broadway revival of “Merrily We Roll Along” — for a Q&A with Holmes and director Dan Hartley, in which he revealed that he initially set out to helm the film himself.
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“I had always wanted to do something about Dave because I wanted to share him with the world for the person that he is. And Dave’s natural humility meant that he was kind of unsure about that for a while — he wanted to make something broader about stunts in general. But eventually, I sort of convinced him that he should be front and center of it,” Radcliffe said. “And we shot some stuff because for some reason, I thought — having never done anything like this before — that I would know how to direct a documentary. Turns out, I didn’t. At all.”
Radcliffe and Holmes knew Hartley from his work as a video operator on the “Harry Potter” franchise, and asked him to step in. Hartley had previously directed the drama “Lad: A Yorkshire Story” in 2013.
“We wanted someone we knew and that would connect to the material in the same way that we did. We were kind of scared of somebody from the outside coming in with a slightly more salacious lens,” Radcliffe said. “Dan had obviously made a feature film before. He hadn’t made a documentary, but we trusted him immensely and we talked about all the docs that we loved and we were very much on the same page. Then Dan shot a couple of afternoons of interviews and showed us, and from that moment it was so clear.”
Radcliffe said that when he showed Hartley the footage he had shot, “he very kindly went, ‘If you want to make a documentary that you know, looks good, you should probably start again.’ So we did, and he just absolutely hit the nail on the head and made the film that you see in front of you.”
Radcliffe instead took on the role of an executive producer on the film, which follows Holmes’ recovery after suffering a spinal cord injury during pre-production rehearsals for “Deathly Hallows Part 1,” in addition to appearing in it. Variety chief TV critic Alison Herman praised the documentary in her review, writing that it is “an attempt on Radcliffe’s part to use his fame to shed light on his friend’s story — and navigate the complex mix of guilt, motivation and admiration spurred by the two men’s contrasting, interwoven fates.”
As for what Holmes hopes viewers take away from the movie, he referred to a lyric from Taylor Swift’s song “August”: “Living for the hope of it all.”
“[Hope] is the first thing you should look for, and the last thing you should let go,” Holmes continued. “It’s a bit messy out there right now, isn’t it? And just to see the collective support that allowed me to live my life and also what we can create when we all trust and love each other and are open — I think we should all be more willing to share our vulnerabilities. It’s what makes us human, and no one should be ashamed of it in any way, shape or form. It’s the scars of life that make us who we are.”
“David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived” is now available to stream on HBO and will premiere in the U.K. on Sky Documentaries and streaming service NOW on Nov. 18.
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