David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived
87 minutes, M, Binge/Foxtel
When you're watching the Harry Potter films, it doesn't feel like they're filled with particularly dangerous stunts. It's not like watching the James Bond franchise or the Mission Impossible films, where there are countless daring acts and brazen stunts on show.
But every fall, slide, dive, jerk and blast in the films has to be orchestrated and performed by the stunt cast before the actors can even attempt it. And for the Wizarding World franchise, there was one stuntman who was Daniel Radcliffe's double for Harry for almost 10 years - a bundle of energy named David Holmes.
Not only was he a gifted gymnast and stunt performer, Holmes also quickly became one of Radcliffe's closest friends, more so than any of the young actor's castmates.
So when Holmes was gravely injured in stunt preparation gone wrong during pre-production on the final Potter film, The Deathly Hallows Part 2, many lives became filled with shock and chaos.
David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived, is a beautiful, heartbreaking and inspiring documentary from HBO, directed by Dan Hartley and executive produced by Holmes and Radcliffe, about someone who very few people have heard of, but whose work millions have unknowingly seen.
Holmes, a larrikin with a heart of gold, became paralysed while completing what should have been a simple stunt - flying backwards into a wall while rigged up with a harness. But something went wrong on the day, even though all seemed well while practising the same stunt the day before, and Holmes broke his neck. One of his colleagues described the scene as Holmes "hanging there like a puppet with his strings cut". The documentary introduces us to Holmes at home today, getting a visit from Radcliffe, who is still one of his closest friends. Holmes is wheelchair-bound, and mostly spends his time indoors these days. He tells the viewers that he figured it was time to talk about what happened: "I thought I better tell my story, otherwise it won't get told".
For a good half hour we're treated to some excellent behind the scenes footage of the Harry Potter films from a stunt perspective. Holmes, though several years older than Radcliffe, was always small in stature, and easily doubled for Harry and other Hogwarts students. He could spend hours a day just getting broom-riding shots, swinging this way and that. He particularly enjoyed the underwater work on Goblet of Fire, and loved nothing more than showing less experienced stunt performers the ropes.
Two of which were Marc Mailley and Tolga Kenan, and they both became extremely close with Holmes and Radcliffe. They are also heavily featured in the documentary.
Mailley gets emotional while speaking about Holmes' accident. He was there to witness it, and had even offered to do the stunt that day. He is the most obvious example of the fact that this accident didn't just change and affect Holmes' life, but the loves of all of those who loved him most. As the final film still needed to be completed, Mailley stepped into Holmes' role as lead Harry double and said he hated having to do that - he felt like he was coming in and stealing his best mates' job while he was laying in the hospital.
Holmes himself comes across as a real trooper. He confesses that he's excised anything negative from his life and works on finding positive things to keep him going as his condition worsens. When returning to the hospital where he spent months recovering, Holmes talks about the other patients in the ward. He says one was there because he was caught up in the Mumbai terrorist attack, and another was there because he was stabbed in the neck in a hate crime. "I was here because I went to work and got paid to do something risky, so I can't feel sorry for myself when I'm surrounded by [the result of] that much hate".
More than just an examination of what happened and Holmes as a person, the documentary is a beautiful reflection on friendship. Radcliffe says one of the lessons he learned through the Holmes' injury was that sometimes "life is just about being there for people, not about fixing things".