The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Stephen Lang
Stephen Langs one of those guys who kicked-around for decades, always delivering whatever the role - but never really had a star moment. Or, at least, he never did until he hit his late fifties around the time he did AVATAR. His performance as the unhinged Quaritch catapulted him into high-demand. Its worth noting that even though he apparently died in the first film, Langs been signed-on for the sequels, a testament to his popularity in the part.
Before that, Lang had done lots of film and TV work. Always a solid actor, he was a favorite of Michael Manns early-on, with him having played doomed tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds in MANHUNTER, before seguing into the part of attorney David Abrams on Manns small-screen cult classic, Crime Story.
Even before AVATAR, Langs imposing physique meant that he was frequently cast as baddies, such as the bleached-blond mass-murderer The Party Crasher in John Badhams THE HARD WAY (opposite Michael J. Fox and James Woods), although he received a lot of acclaim for a pair of roles in Ted Turners Civil War epics, GETTYSBURG and GODS & GENERALS - where he played Stonewall Jackson.
While not the lead, to me Langs presence has always been an essential part of what made TOMBSTONE great. As the cowardly Ike Clanton, Lang plays one of the great big-screen bullies, with his Ike all big talk just as long as he has his cowboy buddies to back him up The second he winds up facing down the barrel of Wyatt Earps gun his bravado is gone. His hysterical acting during the gunfight at the O.K Coral is pitch-perfect.
I was pulling for Terra Nova to be a hit. Certainly, Fox put a ton of money into it as in the summer leading-up to its debut you couldnt turn on the TV without seeing an ad for it (or having web banners come up for it when you visited a site). It would have given Lang a steady-gig, but the show - despite all the money put into it was flop I didnt even make it past the pilot, although I understand it has a minor cult following now.
Apparently, the little-known 1986 film BAND OF THE HAND started-out as a TV pilot produced by Michael Mann, which was passed on and then turned into a theatrical feature. In it, Lang plays a Native American Vietnam bet who heads-up a project where he recruits the worst juvenile delinquents and tries to make them into a unit for positive social change. Once his program loses funding, Lang takes a somewhat more badass approach, turning the teens into a posse of vigilantes devoted to taking down the drug cartels that have ruined their neighborhoods. While the idea of a man turning a group of teens into killers (albeit ones that only kill bad guys) probably wouldnt fly nowadays, BAND OF THE HAND is a fun little eighties romp, with some heavy doses of eighties cheese and a memorable performance by Lang in a rare-leading part. Its worth checking-out.
I really liked the way Mann used Lang in PUBLIC ENEMIES, with him playing the smart, humble agent whose smarts wind-up helping Christian Bales Melvin Purvis capture Johnny Depps Dillinger. I especially like the final scene, where he goes to full-fill a deathbed promise he made to Dillinger after delivering the fatal shot. Its subtle, nuanced acting and while the movie is lesser-Mann, Id wager it gave Lang one of his best ever parts.
With Fede Alvarezs DONT BREATHE now topping the box-office, Langs having himself that long-delayed star moment. Hes been outspoken about how much he wants to play Cable in DEADPOOL 2, posting photos of himself hitting the gym and looking every bit the part. Will the success of DONT BREATHE allow this to finally happen? One things for sure - the fans would approve, but even if it doesnt, expect Lang to show up in tons more stuff including - naturally - a whole slew of AVATAR sequels (once they finally get made).