David Harbour on ‘Kismet’ and Hollywood: Gran Turismo and More

David Harbour possesses the kind of voice that seems tailor-made for podcasts. As the Stranger Things star enters the room with his signature drawl, he introduces himself, “Hi, I’m David Harbour, and I am very jet-lagged. I am exhausted and may fall asleep in the middle of speaking. Please don’t take it personally,” he chuckles.

In December 2022, Harbour, alongside Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean), and Archie Madekwe (Midsommar), was a highlight at a confidential gathering with the cast of Sony’s highly anticipated gaming action thriller, Gran Turismo, at the Dubai Autodrome. The project is a collaboration between Sony and Playstation, marking the intersection of gaming and live-action cinema.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9), Gran Turismo is a biographical coming-of-age sports drama set to release in the UAE on August 10. It’s based on the remarkable journey of Jann Mardenborough, a teenager who started as a Gran Turismo gamer and later transformed into a professional race car driver after winning a series of Nissan competitions. The film brings the heart-wrenching real-life story to the forefront, showcasing the partnership between Sony and Playstation in creating live-action adaptations of popular games.

Harbour takes on the role of Jack Salter, the coach of Jann Mardenborough, who is portrayed by Archie Madekwe. Salter, a former race car driver with a complex past, becomes the mentor for Mardenborough, guiding him toward professional success. Harbour, who holds films like Hoosiers (1986), Miracle (2004), and Warrior (2011) close to his heart, finds a special satisfaction in emotionally charged sports movies centered around mentor-mentee relationships. He mentions, “Truly Hoosiers is one of my favorite movies of all time. And a lot of what I do in this movie is based on what (Gene) Hackman does in that movie.”

Harbour, often characterized as a late-bloomer in the entertainment industry, started his acting journey on Broadway before making appearances in television shows like Law & Order. His breakthrough role as the police chief in Netflix’s Stranger Things catapulted him to fame. With Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, as well as a Critics Choice Award under his belt, Harbour reflects on the trajectory of his career. He’s married to actress Lily Collins, who coincidentally makes a phone call during the interview (“geez, that’s my wife calling”).

The actor believes in the concept of “kismet” when it comes to his roles. He explains how he’s drawn to certain characters and projects, saying, “I do think there is a form of kismet to actors and the roles they get to play. I have found that the energy you give off and the things that are attracted to you are related.”

Harbour humorously describes his on-screen persona, stating, “I tend to give off a grizzled, beaten-down, gladiator-with-a-heart-of-gold, underneath a very crusty-shell vibe and generally people want to hire me to play that thing and if that makes money, they want to do it again. One of the difficulties of being an actor is that as a brand you need to continue to fulfill that because you are a commodity.”

However, Harbour also values the idea of being an artist, continually pushing his boundaries and experimenting with diverse roles. He seeks to challenge his audience’s expectations and broaden their emotional horizons.

As Harbour navigates between his established brand and his artistic ambitions, he remains open to a variety of projects, including romantic comedies. His journey is a testament to the intricate relationship between Hollywood and the actors who shape it, demonstrating that the fusion of personal inclination and professional demand can lead to memorable performances on the silver screen.

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