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David Harbour reveals some of Red Guardian's greatest moments in 'Black Widow' were actually improvised

By Josh Weiss
Black Widow Still David Harbour

It's irrelevant whether Alexei Shostakov fought Captain America or not. The fact of the matter is that Marvel fans want more of David Harbour's Red Guardian following his MCU debut in Black Widow.

We already know that Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) is coming back for the Hawkeye series on Disney+ down the line — Widow's post-credits scene put any lingering doubts to rest — so why not Alexei?

***WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for Black Widow!***

Recently speaking with Insider, Harbour presented to ideas that would allow him to reprise the role. "I would like to say no. I'm down for more," he said.

"One is seeing Red Guardian back in his prime. That's interesting to me," the actor continued. "But the other is going off this story, having this experience with Natasha and having this beautiful end when he takes her hand and says 'I can't even speak to you because I would mess it up.' When he finds out that she was on that cliff with Hawkeye and maybe the version of the story he hears is that Hawkeye pushed her off or something, it's a moment when Red Guardian turns back to the guy he was. He now wants vengeance for her. That I feel would play well."

Black Widow Still Scarlett Johansson David Harbour Florence Pugh

The latter idea is, of course, the direction Yelena will be taking in Hawkeye, which could hit its mark on Disney+ this fall. For reasons we have yet to learn, Val Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has it out for Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and wants Belova to assasinate the archer-y Avenger. Whether Val really knows what went down on Vormir in Endgame remains to be seen, but Yelena now believes that Barton murdered her sister, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). While blatantly false, the lie is the perfect excuse to reunite the family members Nat reconnected with prior to her death.

Pugh and Harbour already showed they have great chemistry — thanks, in part, to Black Widow director Cate Shortland, who gave her cast a lot of freedom to improvise during certain scenes.

"There was a lot on the page but there was also a lot of evolution ... We had a week of rehearsals before filming started, which is such a luxury. We sat around and talked about the script," Harbour revealed to Insider. "The dinner scene, there's a lot of us just messing around. Me grabbing food right in the middle of Scarlett's shot. They were developing the movie as we went. So there was a strong beginning, middle, and end, but we were putting stuff in along the way."

Black Widow Still Scarlet Johansson Florence Pugh Rachel Weiss

For instance, Yelena and Alexei's shared love of Don McLean's "American Pie" (a song from their days as a fake family in Ohio) came at the suggestion of Harbour. The idea apparently came to him while shooting the scene where Alexei attempts to console a distraught Yelena. They end up singing the song together in a tender moment, which signifies that their days undercover wasn't just a heartless ruse — it turned them into a genuine family.

"My character is fumbling trying to be a father and in the end, he fails. She tells him to get out. In the script, he says something and leaves," Harbour recalled. "I felt there's gotta be something a little more profound and I said, 'Wouldn't it be interesting if back in America when she was little and was terrified having been taken from her family the Red Guardian would put her in the car and drive around and play 'American Pie'? So from then on, she tells daddy to put in the tape. So for this bedroom scene, I'm thinking, 'He's a failure as a father, what can he do at the end of this scene? This narcissist who also has a big heart.' And so, he brings up the song, basically as him saying, 'I tried.'"

Black Widow is now playing in theaters and available to stream on Disney+ for an added Premier Access fee of $29.99. Between sales from theatrical and streaming, the film set a new pandemic-era box office record with $215 million.