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David Harbour’s nerd friends tried to keep him from taking the role of Hellboy

Is Winona Ryder one of those “nerds” who warned Harbour away from Helboy? The world may never know. (Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner)

News about cinematic reboots tends to follow a pretty standard path:

1. Reboot announced, all the fans of original films are up in arms, “ruining my childhood,” etc.


2. Decent casting and/or good writer or director announcements introduce a note of uncertainty, “X is a good actor but this will probably be a disaster,” and so on

3. Ongoing reports, including assurances from trusted sources (creator joining production, original star giving blessing), lead to a cautious-but-skeptical “wait and see” attitude.

4. Fandom fractures between those excited to see new iteration and never-approve joykillers convinced that no one should ever take another crack at something they’ve already decided is perfection, regardless of eventual quality or entertainment value.

5. New films arrive, succeed and/or fail, and after 5-10 years, the cycle begins anew. Hakuna matata.


Despite the regularity of this process, prognosticators (including, um, this very site) can’t help but forecast their predictions of doom or triumph at essentially every step, especially the early phases. And it looks like David Harbour’s friends—or at least his nerdier, comic-reading friends—are no different from the rest of us, and felt the need to reach out to their actor compatriot in advance of his accepting the role of Hellboy in the new adaptation of the Mike Mignola-created story. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Stranger Things star said he got an earful from certain folks when they heard he was considering the gig:

I was approached by some very prominent nerds whom I know very well, and I respect their opinions because they’re friends of mine, who were like, “Dude, step away from the Hellboy. Step away.”


There’s a number of reasons they might have warned him off. Time commitment, a difficult-to-sell concept, they don’t like him in red...but ultimately, Harbour believes it was for the same reason most people are wary of reboots: They liked the previous version, and want it to remain the existing take on the character. This seemed especially true of Hellboy, given the oft-stated pleas on the part of both Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman to let them finish the trilogy. But Harbour insists this is a different take on the material, also mentioning the very sensible fact that it’s possible to like more than one version of something.

“I can like Michael Keaton’s Batman and I can like Christian Bale’s Batman. I can like Jack Nicolson’s Joker and I can like Heath Ledger’s Joker,” he says, thereby confusing the hell out of most YouTube commenters. “There’s other Jokers I don’t have to like,” he added, which would be a sick burn on Jared Leto if it wasn’t obviously said in jest (Harbour was in Suicide Squad), so we’ll just have to pretend he was talking about Caesar Romero—to which we say, hey, have some respect for the dead, man.


Given that the project has received the blessing of both Ron Perlman and Guillermo Del Toro, we are now on to stage four. Please report to your respective corners of the internet to either continue shitting on this project or expressing guarded enthusiasm for the Neil Marshall-helmed film. In the meantime, feel free to weigh in on who these suspected nerd friends might be. Winona Ryder probably isn’t among them, but it’s more fun to pretend she is, so let’s go ahead and say Ryder was leading the pack of angry nerds who showed up at Harbour’s door one night, brandishing a copy of The Golden Army and a pitchfork.

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About the author

Alex McLevy

Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.