How David Harbour Prepared for Hellboy

Weight lifting, fight training, and...a homemade Hellboy costume? David Harbour explained it all.

David Harbour as Hellboy in Hellboy Reboot

There’s a new Hellboy movie coming in April 2019. While we’ll never know how Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman’s Hellboy III might have turned out, the reboot appears to be in good hands, with director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) putting David Harbour (the beloved Sheriff Hopper from Stranger Things) in the lead role. And since Hellboy is such a physical character, it means that preparation for the role was a challenge.

When the first photo of Harbour as Hellboy was released, fans were immediately struck by the profound transformation from Hopper’s dad-bod to chiseled demon fighter. At NYCC, Harbour spoke a little about what it took to get into character.

“I worked out a lot,” Harbour says of his training with fitness guru Don Saladino. “Don and I did a lot of work just getting strong and powerful. I couldn’t lose as much weight as I wanted to, but I put on a lot of muscle and I got really strong and a lot of the training was power, because there’s a lot of stunts in the movie. There are two amazing Bulgarian Olympic wrestlers who did most of the Hellboy stunts, but there still was a lot of close up stuff that I had to do. So I’m running and jumping and swinging this thing around. I wanted to feel powerful and I wanted to look powerful so I did a solid three months of heavy lifting.”

Funny enough, Saladino was in the audience at the NYCC Hellboy panel and encouragingly shouted out “he’s a beast!” when Harbour was talking about his weight training.

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“It was very challenging. Let’s say I had about three months between the time we wrapped Stranger Things season 2 and the time I started Hellboy,” he says “I trained hard to get powerful and strong because I feel like Hopper is a bit messed up in a different way and he doesn’t work his muscles as much as Hellboy does, so I wanted to get into that mindset and that helped me.”

But even with all the training, there are still some necessary enhancements, mostly because otherwise Hellboy’s head (where there are considerable prosthetics) would look too big for his body.

“Basically it had just been a head at one point, and with the head so big we needed to flesh out the thing and make it bigger but it winds up being this entire prosthetic,” Harbour says.

But learning to act and training to fight while wearing several pounds of makeup and prosthetics presented its own challenge. “I had three weeks in Bulgaria of pre-production doing stunt training and all this stuff,” he says. “I really wanted to get into this guy and I couldn’t wear the makeup everyday and I couldn’t have the fist, the horns or anything.”

The solution? Harbour took matters into his own hands. “I bought a boxing helmet and a hockey pad with shin guards and I built this fist and I bought a wetsuit and I built this entire thing and I brought two suitcases to Bulgaria,” he says. “ And for those three weeks I rehearsed in this homemade Hellboy suit because I wanted to feel all of this stuff everyday. It really helped because once I got into the thing, it felt like a second skin, and the way that it moves, and even the way that the face moves, it’s just very expressive, so in that way it really did feel like a second skin and at a certain point it became my skin.”

Harbour also spoke to Hellboy creator Mike Mignola about what Hellboy’s fighting style might be. While Hellboy has any number of mystical weapons at his disposal, he’s got a “fluid style” of fighting. “He’s trying to figure out what to do, and ultimately he figures that he just kind of has to punch shit,” Harbour says. “He’s got this big hand cannon and he’s also got this big Right Hand of Doom, so there’s a lot of big fights and there’s a lot of swinging that big right hand around.”

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Harbour even spent time thinking about how Hellboy would speak. “I feel like he’s got a very complicated instrument, as you can see,” he says. “His physiometry is very different, he’s bigger than me and he’s a demon, so what was his first language? It probably wasn’t English but he learned English from Broome, he grew up all around the world. There was a lot of detailed work that I did with some dialect people but I really did a lot of work on who this guy was and then once I get near a shoot and certainly on set I throw it all away.”

Hellboy opens on April 12, 2019.

Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!