Stranger Things star David Harbour says he was deemed too fat to play The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine after auditioning for the role. After years of playing solid character roles in film and TV, Harbour finally got big notices last year with the pivotal role of Hawkins, Indiana, Police Chief Jim Hopper in the Netflix breakout hit Stranger Things. The role propelled the 15-year screen veteran’s career to a whole new level, and the presence he established on the series no doubt was influential in his casting in the titular role in the upcoming Hellboy movie reboot Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen.
But several years before Harbour was cast as the cigar-chomping occultist detective for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the actor says he was up for a role in another superhero film. In a recent interview with The Wrap, Harbour says that when the first Hugh Jackman X-Men solo film was coming together, a casting director friend of his urged him to audition for role of the massive mutant The Blob.
As it turns out, Harbour didn’t land the job, and a joke he made at his own expense during the audition by lifting up his shirt and saying, “I got your Blob right here!” came with unintended consequences. Harbour says:
“I just made a stupid joke and then they called me and the director, we met at like a hotel, and he was like, ‘David, look, you’re wonderful, we really think you’re just a great actor, we’re just concerned… we’re really concerned.’ I was like, ‘Why, what’s your concern? I’m good to go. I’m available, let’s do this!’ And they were like, ‘no, it’s just, you lifted up your shirt and we saw the… we’re just a little worried about your health.’ … I was like, ‘Wait a minute, dude … ‘You are telling me I’m too fat to play The Blob? That’s awesome, I have to get the f— back to New York.’ That’s my audition — so I didn’t get The Blob.”
The role eventually went to Kevin Durand, who wore a fat suit in the film. Although he didn’t name the director in The Wrap interview, he’s more than likely referring to Gavin Hood, the Oscar-winning Tsotsi director who helmed X-Men Origins: Wolverine and later, Ender’s Game.
But before anyone starts making claims of body-shaming, it’s highly doubtful that Hood (if it was him) denied Harbour the role because of his looks. Putting any actor in fat suit – even with built-in coolers – is a risky proposition, and putting an actor in one who is deemed to be out of shape is a liability that a filmmaker is simply going to avoid. You have to believe that the filmmaker had a genuine concern about Harbor’s health, otherwise he wouldn’t have addressed it with the actor after his audition.
Judging his recollection of The Blob audition gone awry, Harbour was clearly incensed by the filmmaker’s observations – but looking at how his career has gone, especially as of late, he should be happy that things didn’t work out. For one, X-Men: Origins Wolverine was disliked by fans and critics because of the creative choices made (namely with Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth, which fueled passion to get the character right with Deadpool), so Harbour should be happy that the film is not an albatross hanging around his neck.
The other thing is, who knows how being in the X-Men spinoff would have affected his career trajectory. If he had played The Blob, would he have eventually landed Stranger Things? And if he didn’t get cast in Stranger Things, would he have had a shot at playing Hellboy? The best thing Harbour can do at this point is chalk the audition up to experience. Strange things have been known to happen in the movie business.