David Harbour was trained in “classical American method acting,” but he no longer believes in the process or uses it during filming. While he’s best known these days for playing Jim Hopper on Netflix’s blockbuster series “Stranger Things,” Harbour got his start in the theater and in film courtesy of character actor roles in the likes of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Revolutionary Road.”
“When I was younger — it’s so embarrassing — but I remember playing that famous Scottish King,” Harbour told GQ magazine. “And being like, ‘I’m gonna kill a cat’ or something: ‘I’m gonna go murder something to know what it feels like to murder.’ I didn’t actually do it, obviously. Not only is that [method acting] stuff silly, it’s dangerous, and it actually doesn’t produce good work.”
When GQ cited three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis as the “preeminent, respectable example” of method acting, Harbour noted, “He’s an extraordinary actor who I’m captivated and fascinated by. [But] when he explains his process it sounds like nonsense to me.”
Harbour joins a handful of actors in recent months who have spoken out against method acting. “Hannibal” favorite Mads Mikkelsen railed against the process in an April interview, saying, “It’s bullshit. But preparation, you can take into insanity. What if it’s a shit film — what do you think you achieved? Am I impressed that you didn’t drop character? You should have dropped it from the beginning! How do you prepare for a serial killer? You gonna spend two years checking it out?”
Just because Harbour doesn’t believe in method acting doesn’t mean he’s unwilling to transform for his roles. The actor told GQ that he lost a lot of weight in order to reprise Hopper for “Stranger Things 4,” where the character finds himself imprisoned in Russia. Being incarcerated for months meant Hopper would not longer be rocking the dad bod he did in previous seasons.
“I lost about 80 pounds from Season 3 — I was about 270 [then], and when we shot [Season 4] I was around 190,” Harbour said, adding that he relied on intermittent fasting and Pilates. “I don’t think I’ll ever do that again.”
Four seasons of “Stranger Things” are now available to stream on Netflix. The show will return for a fifth and final season in the future.