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'Black Widow' star David Harbour loves his Marvel 'onesie': 'I could eat whatever I wanted'

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One of the realest things ever in a Marvel movie occurs in “Black Widow” when David Harbour’s beefy Russian super-operative Alexei struggles to squeeze himself into his Red Guardian suit since he hasn't worn it in a long time.

After a year during COVID-19 lockdown when a lot of folks are currently figuring out if their pre-quarantine wardrobe still fits, “it's very prescient,” the “Stranger Things” star says with a chuckle. “Who knew we'd go through this? That scene takes on extra resonance.”

While “Black Widow” (in theaters and on Disney+ now) is Scarlett Johansson’s first solo superhero movie, the 6-foot-3 Harbour steals plenty of scenes as the title character’s father figure from their spy days. An egotistical Russian version of Captain America (but with a good heart under all his tattoos), Alexei is broken out of prison by his “daughters” – Natasha (Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) – and reunited with his old partner Melina (Rachel Weisz) to take on the secret organization responsible for the shady Widows program.

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Alexei (David Harbour, center) is father figure to Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Marvel's "Black Widow."
Alexei (David Harbour, center) is father figure to Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Marvel's "Black Widow."

“He's stuck in his life and he has tremendous shame, guilt and remorse, but ... he's so invested in his own narcissism that he doesn't think anything's wrong,” Harbour, 46, says about his character. “He thinks he's a big shot, and then the family exposes to him that there's more to do and that he should overcome (his ego).”

Harbour, who married British singer Lily Allen last September and also stars in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” (streaming on HBO Max), discusses his “Black Widow” diet, his musical side and what’s next for his “Stranger Things” character Sheriff Jim Hopper.

Q: How does the Red Guardian suit rank with your other signature costumes such as Hopper and Hellboy?

David Harbour: It's one of the best things I've gotten to wear. It feels like a great onesie. And I was very flattered. The (costume) guys were sweet and they're buttering me up and they really liked making it for a big guy. They were like, “With some of these, we put the fake muscles on, but you got these big shoulders. It's great.” I was like, “Yeah, guys, talk me up.” (Laughs)

Q: Did you still have to go through the Marvel fitness routine?

Harbour: I could eat whatever I wanted, he's supposed to be big, but I did a lot of training to get as good as I could at the minimal stunt stuff I had to do. They threw me into boxing and working with a little bit of Russian Sambo like flips and things like that. I really loved boxing to the point where I continue to do it now. The biggest part of my Marvel training was just convincing the stunt people to put the stunt guy in and (that) they don't need to really see my face.

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Alexei (David Harbour) is Russia's answer to Captain America in "Black Widow."
Alexei (David Harbour) is Russia's answer to Captain America in "Black Widow."

Q: So what do you splurge on with an eat-whatever-you-want diet?

Harbour: If I'm eating just on my own, whatever the hell I want, I really do have a sweet tooth. It's bad. I'm not a salty guy. I don't care about potato chips and stuff, but you give me baked goods – in particular, I love cakes and donuts – and I could kill myself with sugar.

Q: How tricky was a Russian accent for you?

Harbour: There's a lot of sounds that Russians make that the American dialect does not have. For some of these throaty guttural things, it was very hard. But eventually you start to just get into an attitude of a character and a vibe and the way they sit and the way they carry themselves. That helps me a lot.

'Stranger Things': Season 4 footage teases the return of David Harbour's Hopper

Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) goes to some dark places in the upcoming fourth season of Netflix's "Stranger Things."
Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) goes to some dark places in the upcoming fourth season of Netflix's "Stranger Things."

Q: You get to sing “American Pie” with Florence in that accent. Is this the first time you’ve sung for a role?

Harbour: I sang along with a little Jim Croce last year in “Stranger Things.” I sing terribly in lots of different stuff now. I guess it's my new brand.

Q: Can’t you get lessons from your wife?

Harbour: (Laughs) She's not interested in helping me with that at all.

Q: A teaser for the upcoming fourth season of “Stranger Things” shows Hopper in a Soviet prison in Siberia. Is it one of your favorite seasons?

Harbour: I love it. This season is so enjoyable, it's epic in a scope that we've never had. Enjoyable is a strange word: It wasn't easy. It was a lot of cold nights, we're out on locations in crazy snowy environments sometimes and in actual prisons (in Lithuania). And also even where Hopper is in his life, he's in a dark, fragile, vulnerable place, to the point where he has a shaved head and he's like a baby almost. He's discovering himself and what he is, and we also are going to see a lot of dark backstory from Hopper that we've only hinted at. It's not “happy” enjoyable, but enjoyable in terms of eating a hearty meal.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: No 'Black Widow' diet for David Harbour, plus 'Stranger Things' intel