Yes, David Harbour is aware that his career has taken a distinctly Soviet turn. Not only is the 44-year-old actor starring as a washed-up Russian superhero in Marvel’s Black Widow, but a recent teaser trailer for Stranger Things season 4 also revealed that his beloved Sheriff Hopper is alive and imprisoned by Russian forces.
“I know, it is a very surprising, annoying coincidence, and I apologize to the entire internet,” Harbour says with a laugh. “There is no rhyme or reason for it, I promise you. There’s no crossover event between Stranger Things and the MCU.
“I mean, I do look very different in them,” he adds. “One of them, I’m 270 pounds and got a beard and thick, long hair, and the other one I’m like 200 pounds and have no hair.”
That isn’t the only difference between the small-town sheriff and the new Marvel hero. In in Black Widow (out May 1), Harbour stars alongside Scarlett Johansson as Alexei, a Russian agent better known as the Red Guardian. Essentially, he's the Soviets’ super-soldier answer to Captain America, although per Harbour, he's seen better days.
“I think I’m biased, but I think it’s the best character in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Harbour says. “I mean, he is a narcissist, so it’s very appropriate that I’m playing him and that I think that. But he’s just got so many layers. On one level, he’s your classic superhero badass character, but then when you meet him, he has this need to be liked, and he wants to be thought of as funny and a big shot — which he isn’t.”
The actor is no, uh, stranger to comic book roles, having played the eponymous half-demon in last year’s Hellboy, but he tells EW that he’s particularly thrilled to join the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Had they offered me a crappy part in a mediocre movie, I probably would’ve taken that too,” Harbour admits. “But the fact of the matter is the script was really damn good, and the part is extraordinary.”
The solo Black Widow movie follows Johansson’s Natasha as she’s drawn into a global conspiracy. Since the film is set after the Avengers’ breakup in Captain America: Civil War, she can’t exactly turn to her superhero colleagues, so she reunites with some old Russian allies: Alexei, Florence Pugh’s Yelena, and Rachel Weisz’s Melina. Years ago, when Natasha and Yelena were children, the four went undercover as a spy family, and they haven’t exactly been keeping up with their family reunions.
The result, Harbour says, is a Marvel movie that almost feels more like an indie family dramedy, thanks to Cate Shortland’s intimate directing style and a few scenes of awkward family dinners. Still, he adds, there are plenty of action sequences and wild, blockbuster-worthy stunts — even if he himself isn't such a fan of the fight scenes.
“It’s awful,” Harbour says with a sigh. “I mean, I just got beat up constantly. That s— is awful. Anybody who tells you, ‘Oh yeah, man, I love doing stunts,’ that is nonsense. Stop it.”
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