The Boy Who Lived actually started as even more of an outright exploration of stunt work at large. Radcliffe explains he had been wanting to make something with Holmes for a long time, and he initially filmed some interviews related to Cunning Stunts, Holmes’ podcast about stunt performers. “I was kind of like, I don’t know if this is any good,” Radcliffe remembers.
So he showed the footage to Hartley, who had worked in the second unit on Potter. “He very kindly was like, We should do all of this again,” Radcliffe says. Hartley also suggested reframing the project around Holmes, which involved some convincing.
“If I’m setting myself on fire for 15 seconds, all day long, that’s fine, that’s my sweet spot,” Holmes says. “But to actually be the main feature of a big project like this was pretty daunting, but hopefully these guys got the best of me.”
While Radcliffe and Hartley started developing the project independently, it eventually came to be produced by HBO Documentary Films, a corporate sibling of Warner Bros., which released the Potter films. Radcliffe says he was ready for more notes than they ended up receiving, and they were able to access the footage they wanted, including that of Holmes’ accident, although the film never shows it in full.
The production also offered an opportunity for Radcliffe and others who worked on Potter to process what happened to Holmes in a way they had not been afforded previously when they had simply gone back to work. Marc Mailley, another stuntman, breaks down when discussing how difficult it was to replace Holmes, even on Holmes’ own request. Another sequence hones in on the regrets of veteran stunt coordinator Greg Powell.
“We all had that moment of realizing that we had never en masse talked about it,” Radcliffe says, adding that the documentary was “genuinely cathartic and all of us realize that like, oh, maybe we should have all had therapy or something after this.”
It sounds trite to say, but on screen and in person, Holmes speaks with remarkable perspective on his experience. He bears no ill will toward the Potter films nor toward the nature of the stunt business, which he continues to obsess over as an advocate for a stunt ensemble Oscar.
“The thing I learned most about my journey is what is it to be a man in the 21st Century?” he says. “And for a long time I’ve never found that, and now I understand that it is accountability for who you are and the person you project out to the world.”