David Harbour on stepping into the charmingly conflicted role of Hellboy—find out if it tested his morals

David Harbour on stepping into the charmingly conflicted role of Hellboy—find out if it tested his morals

There aren’t many actors who could step into Ron Perlman’s giant boots and take over the role of Hellboy. "Stranger Things" star David Harbour is up to the task.


David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich


Neil Marshall

Release date

April 12, 2019

More movie details →

We travelled to the set in Sofia, Bulgaria to see David Harbour suit up for Hellboy, a reboot of the films directed by Guillermo del Toro, which starred Ron Perlman as the conflicted half-demon from the Dark Horse comic books. Having ditched his look from "Stranger Things" — the Netflix phenomenon in which Harbour plays dishevelled police chief Jim Hopper — the actor seems right at home in the devilish red makeup.

We caught up with Harbour to chat filming in Bulgaria, taking over for Ron Perlman and where he stands on some moral dilemmas.

Here we are in Sofia, Bulgaria of all places. How’s it been so far? What are the hotspots?

It’s a lovely city. I’ve just been wandering around. I really don’t know what the hotspots are. I’m an old person so I like to just sit around. But Bulgaria’s a lovely country…. I didn’t know what to expect from the Eastern Bloc. I had visions in my head of the Cold War, horrible American ideas, but the people are super-sweet and friendly and they just like to move very slowly on the sidewalks and talk to each other and interact, which we don’t really do in New York so it’s very strange.

You’ve got this massive fanbase with "Stranger Things", what was it like to announce this to your fans, to finally be able to talk about this movie?

One of the things that has been really interesting is that, classically, it is known as a reboot even though I hate that term, and there are so many fans of the original movie with Ron and Guillermo, and I love those movies as well. So my take on this is that it’s sort of a reinvention and we’re doing something very different than those movies. So it’s been interesting being on social media seeing people first off get annoyed that we’re rebooting this and get very angry at me and then as they start to come around to the idea, they see some images, then as they watch me in "Stranger Things", a lot of people have come around and that’s been very gratifying.

Now, is Hellboy a superhero? Because he is from a comic book…

I mean, he has superpowers, like he heals very quickly, he’s from hell, fire doesn’t affect him very much, he’s very strong, but he’s kind of an antihero in a certain way. He’s got a lot of moral complexity in terms of what he’s struggling with, being a monster in a human world, and what that means for him, even on the level of having to kill his brothers and sisters. He’s a monster himself and he’s going around hunting monsters, so I think that conflict is a really interesting thing.

I know before you got into this you sat down and had dinner with Ron Perlman. Did he offer any advice?

Yeah. I tend to take my work very, very seriously and he, I think, noticed that and was like, ‘Kid, you’re playing Hellboy, have a good time.’ And so that was his big note and I very much appreciated that. And the other thing is he did say the makeup sucks.

Yeah, he always brings up the hours and hours he spent in the makeup chair.

Well, we’re doing something very different with the makeup on this so I think it’s easier than when Ron did it. Those movies were 15 and 10 years ago, so the technology has advanced and my process is easier than his was.

How many hours are you in the makeup chair?

Now we’ve got it down to like an hour forty-five so it’s not too bad, right?

Everyone always talks about the process of getting into shape for a role, but now that the movie’s done, to go back to Hopper, how do you get out of shape?

[Laughs.] It’s pretty easy to get out of the shape. I’m very skilled at that, one of my major talents is eating donuts and sitting on the couch. I’m really, really good at that.

True fans might want to go back and rewatch the original Hellboy along with Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Hellboy is for comic-book fans with an edge

We all love the Marvel and DC movies, but true comic-book aficionados know there’s also a world of strange and subversive fun beyond the big two.

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