Black Widow star David Harbour talks about how he unexpectedly got the role of the Red Guardian and joined the MCU: “I had no idea what was going on.”
Black Widow star David Harbour shares how he got the role of the Red Guardian. Recently released in theaters and on Disney+, the much-anticipated Marvel film has received a largely positive reception from viewers and critics alike. Its domestic opening garnered $80 million, outpacing its theatrical competitors and earning the coveted spot of the best opening weekend since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also the third-highest opening ever for a Marvel solo film. Along with Scarlett Johansson, the ensemble cast includes Harbour, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, and Ray Winstone.
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Black Widow is a prequel film that takes place after the events of the 2016 Captain America: Civil War and before the 2019 Avengers: Endgame. The movie explores the origins of Natasha Romanoff’s transformation into the “Black Widow.” Not only does it provide greater context for the brainwashing she experienced in the Red Room, but it also introduces viewers to the unconventional “family” she once had. In the early nineties, Russian spies Alexei Shostakov (Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Weisz) went undercover in the United States as an American family with their “daughters” Romanoff and Yelena Belova (Pugh). Although Shostakov served as a super-soldier called the Red Guardian for years, he is imprisoned in Russia soon after Romanoff and Belova are transferred to the Red Room for assassin training. In Black Widow, the titular lead breaks the Red Guardian out of prison to help her with a new mission, leading to an unexpected family reunion.
While speaking to Insider, Harbour detailed how he was able to snag the role of the Red Guardian. He revealed that he didn’t even know what he was being called in for when he arrived for his audition:
“Marvel does not call me and say we want you to play Red Guardian. What happens is I’m in London randomly doing some stuff and [“Black Widow” director] Cate Shortland calls my agents and asks if I want to have lunch and talk about some stuff. I go to lunch and she tells me she’s shooting a movie called “Black Widow” about Scarlett’s character in the Marvel Universe and there’s this guy we want you to play.
I had no idea there was a movie “Black Widow.” I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t believe it. And she describes this character that is this guy who is a father figure and has all these tattoos, so to me, it was a fresh character. Then I went back and did some research and was like, oh, the comics are clearly all wrong. Finally, the movie will correct them.”
Originally known for his role as Chief of Police Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, Harbour relished the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a Marvel film. During his interview, Harbour noted that the cast had a full week of rehearsals, which allowed the actors to add small moments in the script that helped flesh out their characters. This, in turn, enabled the core group of actors to establish a unique bond as a family, which they could then bring to the screen. According to Harbour, some of Shostakov’s quirkier moments, including his decision to try on the Red Guardian suit in the bathroom, were his suggestions.
Although Black Widow has just been released, it has already proven itself as a blockbuster hit and has received a steady stream of praise from viewers, many of whom have been waiting for years to watch a solo film centered on the iconic Natasha Romanoff. Its unexpected storyline, particularly its emphasis on unearthing the people she once knew and loved, has added even greater resonance to her untimely passing. While Black Widow will no longer grace the screen, those she has left behind, including the Red Guardian, will continue to hold up her memory and fight for her legacy.
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