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David Harbour Made One Important Phone Call After Hellboy Flopped

Comic book adaptations might be a genre that has been dominating both the big and small screen for decades now, but for every exceptional release, there's been the occasional stinker that both the fans and the film stars involved don't look back on too fondly. For "Stranger Things" star — and hero of Hawkins – David Harbour, that not-so-nostalgic film was the time that he took the big red bull by the horns in the 2019 adaptation of "Hellboy."

Taking the stone-fisted hero of the BPRD in a different direction to the one Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman sent the character in the 2004 and 2008 films, the Mike Mignola-helmed take met a woeful reception upon release. Making a measly $55 million following a budget of $50 million (via Box Office Mojo), "Hellboy" was stamped with a monstrous critic rating of 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Rolling Stone claiming it to be one of those franchises that "are better off dead." 

This was an outcome that the film's lead didn't anticipate but had to roll with regardless. To bounce back, he sought advice from one name that has a well-known association with bad comic book movies — a talented actor who, in the past, had claimed two failed appearances as comic book icons like a badge of honor, while returning to one and transforming it into a box office success.

Ryan Reynolds was a hero for David Harbour, post-Hellboy

In a 2022 interview with GQ, David Harbour revealed after his bump in the box-office road, he turned to a former "Green Lantern" — and king of comic book movie comebacks — Ryan Reynolds for advice. "I know him a little bit. I called him and I was like, Hey man, I just need to know something. You know 'Green Lantern'? Huge flop for you. What the f*** is that like because I think I'm going to hit that right now," Harbour recalled, at that point clearly worried about his future career. "Am I gonna be okay? Am I gonna survive this?" he asked Reynolds, who evidently gave a "sweet" response in reassuring him.

Harbour also acknowledged that after enthusiastically taking the role of Hellboy, he'd been dogged by a sense the project wasn't going to land well with fans (who largely wanted the cast and crew of the previous two films to make a "Hellboy 3," rather than having a reboot — something Ron Perlman hasn't given up on).

Thankfully, even after his crimson-colored misstep as Hellboy, Harbour eventually found a space in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Red Guardian in "Black Widow." Starring alongside Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, and Rachel Weisz, he was a highlight of Natasha's swan song in the MCU. Currently, there's no confirmation of if he's down to return to the role but given that he was hauled in by Thunderbolt Ross (the late William Hurt), he could make an appearance in the recently announced "Thunderbolts" film. There's also some unfinished business with Captain America (not that he remembers which one) that needs addressing, which could see him crossing paths with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Either way, Harbour still has a future in comic book movies, even if he went through hell to get there.