Interview: ‘Gridlocked’ Villain Stephen Lang Talks Cable Via Deadpool 2, Avatar Sequels And One Long Career In Film

June 14, 2016
When speaking about both quality and longevity in an acting career, nobody is more prevalent than Stephen Lang.  A stage actor in his early years, Lang came from strong theatrical training and as a result has had one of the most interesting, long and diverse careers ever.  Known for playing the consummate tough guy (see “Avatar” folks!) as well as more weasel-like figures (his Freddy Lounds in “Manhunter” is the epitome of paparazzi sleaze!), Lang’s career has deservedly stretched for decades and shows no signs of stopping.  His latest flick entitled “Gridlocked” (out on DVD/Blu-ray and Digital HD June 14 from Magnolia Home Entertainment) sees Lang playing a vicious villain with military training named Korver who gives Dominic Purcell’s hard-nosed cop a run for his money.  We were utterly humbled by the chance to talk to Lang – one of our acting heroes – all about his new film, but the magic did not stop there.  What follows is a massive and comprehensive career interview that runs the gamut of Lang’s colorful and amazing career.  From “Band of the Hand” to “Babe Ruth,” from Michael Mann to Sidney Lumet (plus we get into “Band of Robbers” and “Don’t Breathe” that both feature standout Lang performances this year too!) we grilled the gracious Lang for three-quarters of an hour (sorry Stephen!) to get the skinny on anything and everything Lang related.  (Plus as a bonus scoop hounds get the skinny on Lang possibly playing Cable in “Deadpool 2” and info on the “Avatar” sequels – you’re welcome!)  In what is safe to say our all-time favorite interview ever we are so proud and excited to share with you, our colossal chat with one of the legends in acting and a man who has created cool characters we just adore, here’s the great….
  STEPHEN LANG Having played so many villains over the years what is the secret to portraying a memorable one and how does Korver in “Gridlocked” fit into that mold? Stephen Lang: I don’t know that there’s any one secret to it.  You just have to first of all jettison the idea that you’re the villain and pursue your own agenda with your own sense of purpose and righteous integrity – whatever the hell it is.  It’s hard to play bad.  You have to approach them as if they are as human as you and I.  I mean it’s kind of a bullshit answer (laughs) because when I read a script I can tell as well as anybody else who the good guy and the bad guy is, you know?  But most bad guys don’t conceive of themselves as bad guys I think.   You have some serious fight time with Dominic Purcell in the film – how much of that is you and how do you maintain your shape as you get older? SL: Well, that’s an undying question my boy (laughs) because you just do it.  It’s a physical role and an awful lot of what I get called upon to do is physical stuff.  I mean fighting with Dom was great.  He’s a terrific pro and he’s not out to prove anything – we’re just trying to get the job done correctly.  So knowing that what you’re going to do is going to be physically demanding in any case you just go at it as safely and energetically as you possibly can.  It’s like dancing – it’s a successful fight if it looks absolutely devastating.  As the years go on I just keep changing my workout regiment according to what’s needed and what I’m doing, but also according to what feels right for myself.  So back in the day, there was a tremendous amount of weight and strength training, now I do an awful lot of flexibility training as well – so basically a lot of yoga. I love the angle of the film that’s a throwback to one of your previous films “The Hard Way” with an actor getting caught up in the mix of real life action – what is it about smarmy actors in peril that we love to watch? SL: When I read the movie I was a bit like, ‘Yo, Allan (Ungar, Director), this feels like…’ and he said, “Yeah, I know. It’s a take on that!’  And I think that throughout the film there are a number of tips of the hat to various action films.  He’s a really smart director and made a really good film.  I think the intention here was to take something that really does, just by its very nature kind of a B-movie, almost epitomize the genre.  I don’t know what it is about actors, but we do love the concept that actors will relish the idea of really getting into these situations.  Every actor wants to be a cop, every actor wants to do adventurous or dangerous stuff and this guy is totally unequipped for it.  (Laughs) And Dominic is a very good antagonist to Cody just because he is so no-nonsense to me – you look at him and he looks like a pillar.   Past work – I adore and grew up with the film “Band of the Hand” and especially dug your character of Joe Tegra who was fascinating and layered.  How much of the mindset of that character did you bring to it vs. what was on the page? SL: Wow – that’s a long time ago.  I was actually filming something else for Michael Mann simultaneously at the same time.  There was some depth to that character as I recall.  I worked closely with Paul Michael Glaser who was the director on that and Michael Mann certainly had a lot of input into the character.  We just wanted to make a guy who was solid and righteous and was dealing with his own pain in a real positive way and who felt the responsibility to make these kids learn what it means to take responsibility for their own lives.  To teach them to survive and to take the native skills they had and turn them towards a public and private good.  As far as I can recall – remember that movie is thirty years ago now.  But he was a good character.  It always amazes me that there’s a certain segment of people that come up to me and talk about “Band of the Hand” and I have a feeling that it’s one of those movies that hit them at just a particular time in their youth. Definitely – for me yes! SL: We all have movies like that.  It just kind of spoke to them – the alienation of these kids, the adventure of the whole thing and becoming part of a unit, part of a team was appealing to young people of a certain age.  I had movies like that when I was a kid.