Playing Red Guardian Was A Palate Cleanser For David Harbour After The Failure Of 2019's Hellboy

Let's be honest: the 2019 reboot of "Hellboy" had a lot to live up to, given that the previous two "Hellboy" films had been directed by none other than Guillermo del Toro. "Stranger Things" star David Harbour was given the task of playing this new iteration of Hellboy, with director Neil Marshall at the helm. Unfortunately, rumors of behind-the-scenes drama between the director and two film producers soon spelled trouble, and though Harbour and co. completed the movie, the result was certainly a mixed bag. "Hellboy" 2019 received overwhelmingly poor reviews and bombed at the box office. 

All that is to say, it must've been a rough experience for Harbour. Not only did he seem intensely passionate about playing Hellboy, but his performance was also one of the few aspects of the film that was considered good. It's no wonder the actor took the film's failure so hard, blaming fans of del Toro's iteration while also seeking consolation from Ryan Reynolds, who experienced a similar superhero movie flop. 

Thankfully, things are looking up for David Harbour — not only in the realm of "Stranger Things" and its monstrous popularity, but also in his newest comic book movie role as the Red Guardian, who made his debut in 2021's "Black Widow."For Harbour, it was a welcome do-over.

'Life is a series of failures and successes'

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter to promote his latest film, "Violent Night," Harbour was asked if his success and future as Red Guardian was the "ultimate palate cleanser" after the misfire that was the 2019 "Hellboy" movie. The answer is yes ... with a caveat:

"Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don't know that your palate is ever really cleansed. Life is a series of failures and successes, both of which stay with you, but the failures, mainly, lodge themselves deep into your core and remain there forever. So [Red Guardian] cleansed as much of my palate as possible."

It's more complicated for an actor to move on from a role than simply moving onto the next job that comes after it. "Hellboy" was a unique opportunity for Harbour, with the chance to make the character his own, just as Ron Perlman did before him. As with most recent comic book movies, where a sequel or shared universe is almost always set up in the first installment, "Hellboy" had a post-credits scene that teased many characters from the comics for future films to explore. Unfortunately, those are very unlikely to ever come to fruition, which is another reason the movie's failure may have hit hard for Harbour.

Thankfully, the Red Guardian seems to have a bright future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as he's currently set to appear in the Phase 5 film "Thunderbolts." Wherever the character potentially goes from that point will hopefully make up for what could have been with "Hellboy."