Why David Harbour’s Character Doesn’t Talk In We Have A Ghost

Among the Netflix new releases landing on the streaming service this week is the family supernatural comedy We Have A Ghost. The movie from Paranormal Activity and Happy Death Day filmmaker Christopher Landon is about a family who moves into a new home, only to find out they have a resident apparition, played by David Harbour. Interestingly enough, the Stranger Things star doesn’t have a line of dialogue in the movie, but there’s a solid reason as to why. 

When CinemaBlend spoke to writer/director Christopher Landon about making We Have A Ghost, he shared the story behind making the latest ghost story revolve around a spirit named Ernest who cannot speak from the spirit world. In Landon’s words: 

I wanted his relationship with Kevin to be very emotional, and that they don't have the advantage of conversation. That they are really sort of reading each other's energy and sort of each other's feelings in much in the way that like if you travel to another country and you meet someone, like you just have to figure that relationship out without the advantage of language. And that was really important to me, because I think it allowed for them to have more of an immediate bond, you know?

This makes sense. Given that David Harbour’s Ernest is a character who is actually dead and haunting the world of the living, why would communication be so easy? The movie has a teen boy named Kevin (played by Charm City Kings’ Jahi Di'Allo Winston) befriending Harbour’s ghost as his father (another MCU star, Anthony Mackie) uses their ghost situation as an opportunity to go viral online. As Landon also said: 

In terms of working with David on it, like, you know, David and I had conversations about the character, about who he was, where he came from, and then ultimately his character's goal in the movie, which is to just sort of be able to sort of remember who he is and what happened to him and why he's in this house and how did he die.

The role comes for David Harbour after being introduced in the MCU as Red Guardian in 2021’s Black Widow, as well as playing Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, which will end soon with Season 5. Both of these were charismatic roles that very much leaned on the actor’s ability to deliver great lines at the right time. However, when it comes to We Have A Ghost, Harbour had a different kind of role to play. Landon continued:  

David is a performer who just has immediate access to his emotions. He really understands the scene work and is just a really honest performer… This is the kind of movie that would've been so easy to get very broad and slap sticky. And that's not David. And that's what I wanted because I needed Ernest to be a human being and I needed him to have real stakes. And, that's something that David's very good at.

We Have A Ghost

David Harbour and Anthony Mackie in We Have a Ghost

(Image credit: Netflix)

Release Date: February 24, 2023 (Netflix) 
Directed By: Christopher Landon
Written By: Christopher Landon & Geoff Manaugh
Starring: David Harbour, Anthony Mackie, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Erica Ash, Jennifer Coolidge, Tig Notaro and more. 

Christopher Landon called We Have A Ghost his love letter to Amblin along with other classic ‘80s movies the filmmaker grew up with like Beetlejuice, for example. It’s a much different movie for the filmmaker than his other more serious and jump scare-filled take on ghosts in the Paranormal Activity movies, and more family-oriented than his horror comedies, like the Happy Death Day movies and Freaky

In the case of We Have A Ghost, the movie has Kevin trying to help Ernest cross over to the other side by investigating why exactly he died and why he remains stuck among the living. With Harbour’s character unable to talk, the movie works as a mystery for Kevin to solve whilst Ernest becomes an internet sensation, earning the attention of the world. You can check out We Have A Ghost with a Netflix subscription on Friday, February 24. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.