- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The film, which arrives Dec. 2, begins with Harbour’s Santa in a state of disarray. He drinks too much, mainly because he’s disenchanted by the world’s greed and its effect on Christmas. He even contemplates giving up the reins until a hostage situation presents itself while he’s dropping off presents at the Lightstone family estate. As the film goes along, the audience gets various looks at Santa’s rather unique backstory, which was another selling point for Harbour.
“The great thing about Santa is that I really got to investigate him,” Harbour tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We all sit around and tell our kids that some big, fat, jolly guy with a red suit comes down the chimney, eats some cookies and gives you a present, but who is that guy? When you really start to get down to the marrow and the core of who this individual was, it makes complete sense.”
Marvel Studios recently announced Thunderbolts, which features a team-up of antihero-type characters including Harbour’s Red Guardian, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, just to name a few. Harbour first introduced his character in 2021’s Black Widow, and he admits that it’s mostly made up for the disappointment that marked his turn as Hellboy in Hellboy (2019).
“I don’t know that your palate is ever really cleansed,” Harbour says. “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.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Harbour also discusses how 87North’s John Wick regimen pushed him to the absolute brink, physically.
So will you be reprising your Santa role in a few weeks at the Harbour household?
(Laughs.) Oh God, no. My kids really don’t like it when I’m the center of attention. They’re so sick of that. So I just try to remain as neutral as possible. I feel like me in a big old Santa suit would not be a good thing, but I will, unbeknownst to them, be the one pretending to be Santa Claus by delivering presents under the tree. I hope they don’t [read] this interview.
You‘ve had some physical roles in the past, but does the 87North experience take the cake?
Yes, it is by far the most difficult physical thing I’ve ever done in my whole life. We started training in early December , and I felt exhaustion like I’ve never felt in my whole life. It was legs quaking, going to bed at 5:30 pm exhaustion.
Santa is probably the most wholesome figure in all of pop culture, and so I’ll never get used to seeing him stab someone with a candy cane or ice skate.
Did you constantly feel that incongruity while playing him?
Of course, but the great thing about Santa is that I really got to investigate him. We all sit around and tell our kids that some big, fat, jolly guy with a red suit comes down the chimney, eats some cookies and gives you a present, but who is that guy? How’s he getting into your house? What’s he really up to? So, on the surface, sure, I start with the same old, “He shouldn’t be stabbing people with a candy cane. This is incongruous.” But then when you really start to get down to the marrow and the core of who this individual was, it makes complete sense.
The film bridges the gap between Die Hard and Home Alone. There’s a touch of Bad Santa as well. Did you want to make something that could potentially join someone’s Christmas movie rotation every year?
It’s crazy to consider that this could do that. My intention is always to just make a great movie. It’s never where it will go, but the fact that people talk that way about [Violent Night] is kind of incredible. They’re like, “Oh, it’ll be a Christmas movie that people watch,” but I didn’t really think about that when I was making it. It was much more about this action movie with heart, but you’re right. I watch a Miracle on 34th Street and Bad Santa and all these movies during Christmas, so why wouldn’t it be watched in that way? I just never considered it.
Did you live with that hammer for a while?
I love that hammer. I used to sit around in my apartment in Winnipeg and just twirl it back and forth.
Through no fault of your own, the last Hellboy movie didn’t work out …
What!? No! (Harbour jokingly feigns ignorance.)
Breaking news. I’m so sorry. But then Red Guardian and the MCU came your way shortly thereafter. Did Alexei serve as the ultimate palate cleanser for that previous experience as Hellboy?
(Laughs.) 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.
Are you excited to reteam with Florence Pugh for Thunderbolts?
Hell yeah. It’s going to be exciting. It’s a wild group with Wyatt [Russell], Sebastian [Stan] and Julia [Louis Dreyfus].
I’ve been sitting on this next question for six years, but I was a big fan of the show Banshee. And you popped up at the end of season three, seemingly setting up a big role on the final season, but then you were swiftly killed off at the start of that final season. So did another show have first position? What happened there?
There were some problems, yes, where I could not do more. (Harbour then jokingly pretends his lawyer has interrupted to prevent him from saying anything further.}
I’ll ask you again in six years.
My lawyer “Bob” is over here and he says that in another six years, we’ll be able to talk about it. The documents will be unsealed.
I’ll see you then. Well, shifting gears, did the Santa suit make the choreography even harder on the day?
Not the suit, but what does make it harder is that beard and that mustache. I didn’t have time to grow one or anything, so I had a big old fake beard and fake mustache and a wig that were annoying when doing wrestling-type moves and grabbing guys and moving around. I had one of the stunt guys glue a really bad version of that wig on their face for a couple days during our training, and I would pull at it and work at it just to see how it worked. But yeah, it’s very annoying to fight in a beard. The big padded suit? No problem.
Did the shed scene with the kill squad take the most out of you?
Yeah, that was really hard. There was a lot of exhausting choreography in that.
You have a great relationship with a young actor named Leah Brady in this movie, and overall, you’ve got quite a knack at performing with young actors. Do you credit Stranger Things for that?
I said this recently on a podcast about parenting. I never wanted kids, but kids have always liked me. Part of that is because I’m like a kid. Although I have very adult concerns now and things like that, I think the essence of me is a bit like a silly kid, and kids sort of relate to that and respond to it. So it was happening before Stranger Things. I did little plays where I’d have to carry kids on my shoulders and stuff. So kids have always sort of liked me.
Between Dave Leitch’s 87North and Chad Stahelski’s 87Eleven, you’re now in select company alongside their other action stars including Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Bob Odenkirk, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jamie Foxx. So I think all of the 87 all-stars should square off in a battle royal-type situation.
I mean, what is the John Wick series missing when we really stop to think about it?
Exactly! Yeah, I’m ready.
John Leguizamo [who plays Violent Night’s villain] is also in the Wick franchise, so he can play dual roles.
(Laughs.) It’d be fun to have him act in scenes with himself. I’d watch the shit out of it.
Violent Night opens in theaters on Dec. 2nd. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
The Best Man: The Final Chapters