Best known as a stage force to be reckoned with, David Harbour’s feats so far include a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Nick in Anthony Page’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Now, having wrapped three major movies this year, Harbour’s hit the mainstream. We talked to the 33-year-old Brooklynite about doing sexy times with Kate Winslet in front of husband Sam Mendes, playing a Bond villain in Quantum of Solace, and the all-too-real fear of flubbing lines in front of Russell Crowe.
What was your intention for Shep, your character in Revolutionary Road?
I mean, his name is Shep, which is symbolic of a dog. He’s a puppy dog, in a way, who’s in love with April. His whole chapter is like an ode to her. I guess his primary focus is with her the whole film. You see dogs outside cafés when their owners are in getting a cup of coffee, you see the look on their face waiting for them to come out the door. I think that’s sort of Shep’s whole deal, waiting for April.
So, that’s the look you were going for?
[Laughs] Yes, that was one of the looks.
In the film, you have sex with Kate Winslet’s character. How was it doing that in front of Sam Mendes?
It was a bit embarrassing, but the one thing I took great solace in is that Shep is a lot more into it than April is, so the fact that I was such a bad lover and such an inappropriate choice for April at that moment must have not made Sam be too scared of me.
You just used the word “solace” in a sentence. Have you been using that word a lot more lately?
[Laughs] I don’t know! Maybe that is some weird subconscious thing that you’re picking up. That’s horrible of me trying to promote my other movie while I’m on the phone with you. God, that’s horrible! I apologize.
It’s okay, the next question is Bond-related anyway. Was it your dream to be in a Bond movie growing up?
I guess this all is sort of beyond a dream because I never dreamed that big. I mean, to have a mustache and be villainous, it just doesn’t get any more fun than that.
But surely you’d want to be James Bond himself and not like Jaws or someone?
No, if you’re in a Bond movie, trust me, you want to be the villain. Those guys have too much fun. They’ve toned them down considerably since the days of like sharks and laser guns and hats with razor blades, but still like, bleeding out your eyes playing poker, blowing up fuel cells, that’s just the best. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for villains.
How is your quest going to have the Hold Steady play at your wedding?
It’s going. Slowly, but surely.
Do you know those guys personally?
We have friends of friends that know them. They live in Brooklyn, which is where we live, and they’re always around. We’ll find out they were at this bar the other night, and it’s like, “Oh! Fuuuuuck. We need to go to that bar!”
So you really love them?
You have no idea. I have like four albums on my entire iPod, which holds 120G of music. I have one percent of it taken up and it’s their four albums. Oh God, I love them so much to the depths of my soul I can’t tell you. There’s something about their music that clicks in my brain and sets off chemical fireworks, like any other great drug you’ve ever done. I just saw them at Terminal 5. I don’t start my next job till January, and I thought about just getting in the car and going around to Minneapolis, going to Cleveland, going to every spot.
Maybe you feel an affinity with them since you’re breaking through to the mainstream at exactly the same time as them.
I think that they have ambivalence and complexity about that, because in their guts they’re a bar band who really do it for the thrill of it. I hope I can hold on to the amateur in me, like I think they have.
It’s probably easier to do that if you get success later in life.
I think that’s true. Hitting my thirties, I was like, “Oh I get it, so it’s not all a big deal, let’s just relax, let’s just have a good time.” When these good things are happening to me to be like “Yeah, well, have your fun, but just realize that we’re all going to get on the subway tomorrow.”
I was going to ask if you ever make friends with your castmates on movies, but actually what I really to know involves State of Play. How was working with Russell Crowe?
I mean I’ve heard stories about him, but I found him to be lovely. I think part of it is that I’m kind of an alpha guy. I’m a big guy, and I’ve a strong personality and a strong presence and I think he is too. Sometimes when two guys like that meet, there can be one of two directions that it can go: You can either get in fights and resent the person or you can just laugh and be like “Oh, look at you!” and see yourself a bit in the mirror. I really did have that experience with him. We had a really good time. We laughed a lot, and he was very respectful. The time that I had with him, he really wanted to work. There was one scene where I was struggling a bit with my lines and he got on my case about it. I was impressed with him actually.
It’s like, I’m flubbing my lines, hide the phones!
The dude’s got personality. He’s definitely a very outspoken individual, but I didn’t get any phones thrown at me.