David Harbor Interview: We Have a Ghost
David Harbor discusses Ernest's physical appearance, bringing him to life through his body, and playing a mute character in We Have a Ghost.
David Harbor stars as ghostly Ernest in new horror-comedy We Have Ghosts. We have a ghost haunting a house that was haunted by Ernest until it was bought by a family who recently moved in. When Ernest fails to scare them away and connects with teenage son Kevin, who feels like an outsider, the couple become friends and set out to find the truth about Ernest's past. Meanwhile, Kevin's brother and father make a video of Ernest that goes viral, causing the ghost to become a social media sensation overnight and draw the attention of the CIA.
We Have a Ghost written and directed by Christopher Langdon. We Have a Ghost is based on the short story "Ernest" by Geoff Manaugh. The film has an impressive cast that includes David Harbor, Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Coolidge, Tiger Notaro, and Jahi DiAllo Winston.
Screen Rant spoke with David Harbor about playing ghost Ernest in the new film We Have Ghosts. Harbor explained how he discovered Ernest's flesh when there was no dialogue in the film, and how ET inspired him. He also discusses what it would look like to find Ernest, including comb.
David Harbour on We Have a Ghost
Screen Rant: Incredible work with the ghost Ernest in We Have a Ghost. You can express so many emotions with your expressions. Can you talk about bringing Ernest to life and only having him physically play? No pun intended there.
David Harbour: Yeah, I was scared because he doesn't have any lines, right? So it's like, "How are you going to reveal this guy?" But I thought a lot about that movie ET, and how expressive that little alien was with just a little finger and a puppet. And there's something about the simplicity and the stillness of Ernest that I found really profound. And the fact that there is all this cacophony around him of this TikTok world and this family who's somewhat disjointed and disconnected. He's this old guy who's been forgotten, who lives in the walls, who has this deep secret. There was something about that really guided me about this other factor. He was alien to this world; he was uncomfortable with it. And there was something about that, that I really latched onto and that allowed me a real focus.
I know you just mentioned ET, but I love your physical comedy in it. It reminds me a lot of Charlie Chaplin and that style of comedy. How did you do that, did you find inspiration from the days of silent movie stars?
David Harbour: I didn't, actually. If I had five years to work on the movie, I probably would've gone and watched all those movies and thought about that style. But the problem is, those guys are such masters at their specific style, and I'm such a different actor that I felt like if I looked too much at that style and tried to do Buster Keaton eye-rolling things, it would just be awful. I really stuck to what I know how to do and trusted that it would resonate on my particular instrument. But physical life is always interesting to me. All that physicality, all that behavior, the way his body is and who he is, was always very important. But yeah, I just couldn't get into that silent film stuff. It would've taken me down such a path, and I don't think it would've been good.
That rabbit hole, man. I have to ask, what inspired Ernest's look?
David Harbour: I was into the comb-over idea because, again, I wanted him to have two things. I wanted him to feel like a scary old ghost in a house. At first, when you initially see him, and always in those movies, it's always some guy or some old woman who was like, "Eh, I'm going to kill you." And so I wanted you to have that feeling. And then the other thing was I feel like nowadays there's something about our hairstyles and the way we are where it's like, I'm in my forties, but I don't look like a guy my grandfather's age who was in his forties. That there's a certain look that those guys have that feels like very other and very anti-technological. And I felt like the comb over was just a very simple, strong image of that. I don't know guys anymore that really have comb overs. I feel like it was a product of a different time. I wanted that feel to him, that he had this other quality. And that's where a lot of the look came out of. He's a guy that got lost in time while time moved on.
About We Have a Ghost
Based on the short story "Ernest" by Geoff Manaugh, We Have a Ghost follows a family as they move into Ernest's haunted house. One of the teenage boys, Kevin, bonds with Ernest and decides to help him discover the truth about his past and hopefully move on. Meanwhile, Kevin's family makes a viral video of Ernest making him an overnight celebrity and targeting them on their backs, drawing a knock from the CIA.
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