Daniel Radcliffe Tried to Direct the Documentary on His Harry Potter Stunt Double Who Was Paralyzed During Filming

By: Olawale Ogunjimi | Published: Dec 04, 2023

Daniel Radcliffe is best known for his role as Harry Potter in the beloved film franchise Harry Potter based on the book series by J.K. Rowling.

But the actor recently told the world that he almost transitioned into the role of director in order to tell the story of his friend and stunt double David Holmes, who was tragically paralyzed on set.

The Story of David Holmes

Before diving into Daniel’s recent interview in which he explained why he wanted to and then couldn’t direct a documentary about David Holmes, it’s first important to understand David’s story.

Daniel Radcliffe and David Holmes on the set of Harry Potter

Source: @HBODocs/X

David Holmes worked side by side with Daniel Radcliffe on the first seven Harry Potter films as his stunt double. Holmes essentially did all the action shots that Daniel couldn’t do, and he was fantastic at his job.

The Tragic Accident

But sadly, while filming the seventh movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, David Holmes suffered a spinal cord injury and is now completely paralyzed from the neck down.

Poster for the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

Source: Wallpaper Abyss

That day, David’s life changed forever. But, of course, Daniel’s did too, as he felt an incredible amount of guilt and sadness for his friend.

Daniel’s Desire to Share His Friend’s Story

Nearly a decade later, Daniel decided he wanted to share the tragic and heartwarming story of his friend, David Holmes.

Daniel Radcliffe stands next to David Holmes in his wheelchair

Source: @HBODocs/X

Radcliffe explained in a recent interview, “I had always wanted to do something about Dave because I wanted to share him with the world for the person that he is.”

David Holmes Wasn’t Excited about the Idea

Daniel Radcliffe said that David wasn’t immediately excited about the documentary. He said, “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.”

David Holmes laughing during the documentary David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived

Source: @HBODocs/X

But then, Daniel said, “I sort of convinced him that he should be front and center of it.” And the two friends got to work shooting the documentary with Radcliffe as the director.

Daniel Radcliffe Realized He Wasn’t a Great Director

Radcliffe told the press he thought “[he] would know how to direct a documentary. Turns out, [he] didn’t. At all.”

David Holmes and Daniel Radcliffe hugging and laughing together

Source: @HBODocs/X

Radcliffe and Holmes laughed lightheartedly at what they had shot and realized quickly they needed a professional director. That’s when they contacted Dan Hartley, who worked alongside the friends on several of the Harry Potter films.


Dan Hartley Told the Guys, “You Should Probably Start Again”

According to Daniel, when Hartley saw what they had made, he said, “If you want to make a documentary that you know looks good, you should probably start again.”

Screenshot of David Holmes speaking to the camera during the documentary David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived

Source: @HBODocs/X

But the guys didn’t want just anyone on the project; they specifically wanted a director who they knew personally and understood David’s story.


Asking Harltley to Direct

Daniel Radcliffe explained, “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.”

David Holmes attends the UK premiere of David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived

Source: Mike Marsland/Getty Images

And continued, “Dan [Hartley] 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.” Luckily, Hartley decided to take the project on and started filming David and Daniel’s incredible story, and Radcliffe became the executive producer.


The Documentary David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived

The three friends went on to create an amazing documentary for HBO entitled David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, which received fantastic reviews.

David Holmes attends the "David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived" UK Premiere

Source: Tristan Fewings/WireImage/Getty Images

Allison Herman, Variety critic, wrote 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.”


Not a Story of Tragedy, But One of Hope

When asked what David Holmes wants the audience to experience when watching the film he said, “Living for the hope of it all.”

A small white flower grows out of a crack between the cobblestones

Source: Freepik

He continued, “It’s a bit messy out there right now, isn’t it?” and “[Hope] is the first thing you should look for, and the last thing you should let go.”


A Film About Hope, Love, and Trust

David also said people should watch the film “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.”

Black and white photo of two men bumping fists

Source: Freepik

And he also said that “we should 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.”


Everyone Should Watch David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived

Anyone who enjoys an uplifting documentary about friendship, love, life-changing moments, and real and lasting hope should watch David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived.

Shot of the HBO Original documentary title David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived

Source: @HBODocs/X

The documentary is available for streaming on HBO and Sky Documentaries and is certainly a one-of-a-kind film.