Earlier this year, Guillermo del Toro, director of the first two Hellboy movies, sent out a tweet encouraging fans to express their support for the long-awaited third film in the series. While this briefly inspired a furor of excitement over the possibility of a conclusion to one of the superhero genre’s most sinfully underrated series, all dreams were dashed a mere month later, when del Toro announced the film wouldn’t happen, at least not with him:
“Hellboy 3 Sorry to report: Spoke w all parties. Must report that 100% the sequel will not happen. And that is to be the final thing about it… Hellboy may move into a different direction. heartbroken- but, not up to me. I, for one, wish everyone involved the best of luck!”
While del Toro is notorious for announcing or becoming attached to various projects that never come to fruition, this one especially stung for fans of his vibrant, fantastical adaptation of the Mike Mignola comics. Even in a film industry and pop culture environment where superheroes are the billion-dollar foundations of the field, there was always something unique about Hellboy, and much of its potential remained untapped, particularly with one of Hollywood’s most fascinating film-makers at the helm.
All of that made the announcement of a cinematic reboot a mixed bag for fans. Mignola announced on his Facebook page that a new project, titled Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, was set to go into production, with Neil Marshall directing, and the film having a darker, R-rated tone, a sharp contrast from the del Toro films. The most intriguing part of this announcement was the choice to play Hellboy himself – David Harbour.
For many years, Harbour was a familiar, if not instantly recognizable face in an array of films and TV shows. The chances are you’ve seen him countless times in big properties and wondered where you’d seen him before. He’s made appearances in everything, from award winning indies (Brokeback Mountain, End of Watch) to major blockbusters (Quantum of Solace, The Equalizer), to prestige TV (The Newsroom, Manhattan). Like all good New York based actors, he’s done his time on the long-running Law and Order franchise in no fewer than five separate times as five entirely different characters. He’s also a Broadway favourite, and received a Tony nomination for appearing in the 2005 revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In short, Harbour was the embodiment of “Hey, it’s that guy.”
That changed last year with his lauded performance in the surprise Netflix hit of 2016, Stranger Things. As Chief Jim Hopper, Harbour brought grit with a sarcastic edge to a familiar trope as the town sheriff investigating curious goings on. Add to that a small role in Suicide Squad and 2016 was a great year for Harbour. He finally had a chance to show off his talents in a meaty role with a heartbreaking character arc, and he made an indelible impact, even when performing alongside bona fide legends like Winona Ryder and the scene-stealing child ensemble, led by Millie Bobbie Brown.