Screen Rant recently had the opportunity to chat with the amazingly talented Stephen Lang about his upcoming Lin Oeding film, Braven, in which he costars with Jason Momoa. Lang’s long career has seen him appear in several popular films ranging from 1993’s Tombstone to 2009’s Avatar (for which he’s currently filming the sequels).
In our interview, Lang discusses working with Momoa as both an actor and producer on the R-rated action-thriller Braven, which Marvel character he really wants to play, and working with James Cameron on the next four films in the Avatar franchise.
Screen Rant: It’s a pleasure to met you, I didn’t realize you were in one of my favorite movies of all time, Tombstone.
Stephen Lang: Well, there you go.
Screen Rant: Yeah, literally, man, I watch that movie all the time, I loved it, thank you so much for that movie, it’s brilliant.
Stephen Lang: Well, we made it just for you.
Screen Rant: So, I do gotta ask, while there’s huge tentpole movies out there in theaters, I loved this movie, cause it was a good call back to me, of those old school Charles Bronson, kind of like, Death Wish movies. I really like the fact that this is a smaller scale, smaller place, a medium budget film, and you’ve been able to do a great job of walking both of those lines between a huge budget movie and something more intimate like this. How ha the industry changed for you, for better or worse, in terms of that?
Stephen Lang: I don’t know man, I think that I just, it always seems to me that all my options are open, you know? I love doing studio pictures, for sure and then this one came about, you know, because, Jason Momoa is a very dear friend of mine and he asked me to do it, and so much of the time, the smaller films that you do occur for reasons kind of like that.
Screen Rant: Right.
Stephen Lang: You know, the writer, the director, sometimes they kind of come to you almost touching it as a favor, but I never see it that way. You know, I see it as, well, a mutual favor in a way cause, regardless of the size of the picture, if it’s a project that’s interesting, I’m always still really pleased to be asked, and the budget of the film is really just one consideration.
Screen Rant: Sure.
Stephen Lang: Generally talking, a film has the badger it’s supposed to have, you know?
Screen Rant: Exactly, that’s a great point. Since I got the screener for this movie, I’ve already seen it twice. I really, really enjoyed it. You guys do a great job, you and Jason together, have great chemistry. It really looks like a call back to action films of yesterday, where a hero uses his wits and his brawn to protect his family, what drew you to the project? I know you said Jason got you involved, but, was that mostly the deciding factor?
Stephen Lang: Yeah, I would say so, I mean, I’ll tell you, the only factor that gave me any kind of hesitation during the project was that it was filming in Newfoundland in December and January.
Screen Rant: Uh-huh.
Stephen Lang: And I’ve spent my life trying to avoid the cold, you know at this point, but I was very glad, I just kind of bit the bullet and you know pulled on my long underwear and said sure, let’s do it because you know, look I mean, its as I say, Momoa and I worked together in Conan the Barbarian and we became good pals. He’s a singular guy, his energy is really powerful, he’s very, very funny, we just get along good, you know?
Screen Rant: Right.
Stephen Lang: So I would say, you know, I don’t like to say no because when I ask someone to do something and they don’t, I’d be reluctant to ask another time and so much of this business is built on relationships and really looking out for your colleagues.
Screen Rant: Right.
Stephen Lang: So that was a huge part to me. I mean and then the role itself, it was like I read it and I said “Yeah, I can do this.”
Screen Rant: Right. Well, you know what. . .
Stephen Lang:The thing is every role presents challenges, if it’s a simple role, you want to make challenges for yourself, you know, you create obstacles for yourself I think, but there was enough there, there was enough meat on those bones I thought, you know, that I could do something with it.
Screen Rant: I completely agree and speaking of the character, you play Jason’s father, he has these relapses with his past, was there anything with the character that was possibly not on the page that you were playing towards?
Stephen Lang: Well, just that, sure, I mean, his relationship with wife was hugely important to him and losing her before was difficult, but what I think is really hard is this is a guy that is reflected in Jason, in his son. This is a guy who has lived his life with being accountable only to himself. Self employed guy who is strong and takes responsibility for his own actions. And so for him to feel himself slipping away, for him to be confused is, it’s uncharacteristic and I think it’s very, very alarming to him and with the kind of, with his demeanor, the way he’s lived his life, I think it puts him in an extremely defensive mode, you know?
Screen Rant: Gotcha, absolutely. Now you talked with working with Jason in the past on Conan, now, as an actor, he’s growing quite, quite significantly, what did you guys learn from each other on this film?
Stephen Lang: We learned . . . geez, that’s a good question, it’s one I’d sort of have to think about, I mean, I just have great confidence in him.
Screen Rant: Yeah.
Stephen Lang: You know, in this one, it was interesting because Jason was not only starring in this film, he’s producing the film, of course, that was not the case on Conan the Barbarian.
Screen Rant: Sure.
Stephen Lang: I mean, he was wearing a number of hats here and he was in a position of responsibility and authority and you get to see in a great way how his tastes really operate.
Screen Rant: Right.
Stephen Lang: So, you know, there was some insight into that, also because of the nature of the film, the weather, the budget, there was a good bit of improvisational quality to it as well, which was a pleasure and in my scenes with Jason, we were very free to change things, to try things, to say what needed to be said, and tweak things in a way that might make them more personal or more dynamic or kind of increase the conflict, and I just felt that he was a character that I wanted to be hard on.
Screen Rant: Right, right, right.
Stephen Lang:I felt that the dad is just hard on him and that’s also a reflection of I mean, he’s no harder on his son than he’s ever been on himself, it seems to me so. . . but you know, so that was it, and to watch him, I think one of the things that’s very interesting about Momoa is that he, you know, he’s a big guy . . . and he’s strong and a tough guy in a lot of ways but he has a huge, kind of, sweet streak.
Screen Rant: Right.
Stephen Lang: You know, there’s a real element of just flat out sweetness to the guy, which I think is extremely appealing and I just wasn’t gonna go for that at all.
Screen Rant: Right, right.
Stephen Lang: You know, I wasn’t going to appeal to it, I wasn’t really gonna let it appeal to me in this thing, you know?
Screen Rant: So, are you currently shooting Avatar right now?
Stephen Lang: I am!
Screen Rant: In what ways do you see that sequel pushing the boundaries like the first one did? Because that movie is groundbreaking, so many movies couldn’t have been made without that movie having been made first. So, it what ways is James Cameron pushing that new technology and new style of filmmaking for the next few chapters?
Stephen Lang:Well, in ways that are probably too numerous or too, kind of, complex or too subtle for me to even, you know, articulate right now. I mean, look it’s no secret that we’re doing a lot of underwater motion capture, which, in itself is groundbreaking, it just hasn’t been done.
Screen Rant: Yeah, I was just gonna say, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody doing underwater motion capture.
Stephen Lang: No, it hasn’t been done, and it presents a whole host of challenges. But, you know, from Jim’s resume, you can ascertain that he does enjoy the water.
Screen Rant: Yes.
Stephen Lang: There’s something about the world being undersea. That is extremely beautiful, fascinating, challenging to him. So, you know, there’s sections that taker place. . . so, that in itself is a big deal. But just, what are we, three months into shooting now, it’s like nothing I’ve done before.
Screen Rant: Interesting. . . Are you guys shooting . . .
Stephen Lang: It’s in many ways reminiscent of Avatar, but it’s kind of Avatar on steroids.
Screen Rant: Nice, are you guys shooting two through five back to back to back to back?
Stephen Lang: Well, that shooting schedule and release schedule has been enhanced, we’re shooting right now, we’re shooting Two and Three.
Screen Rant: OK.
Stephen Lang:Because look, it’ll only make sense if, it’s logical when you think about it, Two comes out in December ’20, Three comes out in December ’21, Four comes out in December ’24, and Five in ’25, so it’s pretty obvious where your priorities need to be right now.
Screen Rant: Absolutely.
Stephen Lang:But, the real . . . the kind of. . . the genius of it is- for me, in terms of how this whole project is constructed, is that to know where this has to end up, to know where this saga is going, you know, really informs everything on an acting level, but also universally, just in terms of how you approach the process.
Screen Rant: Right.
Stephen Lang: Just the pace, just your own internal pace as an actor, cause this is a long term commitment that we made here.
Screen Rant: Sure, absolutely.
Stephen Lang:So I spend as much time probably preparing to work as I do to work.
Screen Rant: Well, that’s amazing, that’s incredible.
Stephen Lang: Just so I can really stay, be where I need to be.
Screen Rant: Yeah, you really, you gotta stay in that zone.
Stephen Lang: Yeah, emotionally and physically.
Screen Rant: Now, I was looking through your twitter and I saw this great tweet that you wrote, it says, “Dear Marvel Studios and Deadpool, Brolin’s gonna slay it as Cable. Ain’t no doubt about it, fact is years I took him under my knee and schooled him, you’re welcome.” And it’s you holding him like a kid. First of all, there was a huge Fan campaign, I was a part of that, to get you as Cable, I thought that you would have been perfect. Did you audition for that at all?
Stephen Lang: No, no, I never auditioned for it and you know, truth be told, I’m fairly Cable-ignorant.
Screen Rant: Really?
Stephen Lang: Look, my relationship with Marvel Comics goes back to the 60’s when – and I’m talking about as a reader, I was right there for the first Spider-Man, I was a Fantastic Four fan, I loved Doctor Strange, I love Jim Steranko, Jack “The King” Kirby, all them, Steve Ditko, you know, I knew who they were and I was reading all that stuff, I will say that it – by the time Cable came around . . . I had kind of moved on.
Screen Rant: Yeah, cause that was like the 90’s.
Stephen Lang: You know, I’d really moved on so, I depended on my sons to tell me who Cable was. If there was one Marvel character, I guess everybody’s always trying to figure out what Marvel Character, I don’t know everybody is . . . but you know, what Superhero would you be? It was, the choice was always clear to me, for me, it was, I was, my favorite Comic Book of all the Marvel series, was always Sargent Fury and His Howling Commandos. I friggin’ loved Sargent Fury’s Howling Commandos and to me it was always like, I want to be Nick Fury.
Now, I think Sam Jackson does a great Nick Fury, but, understand that the Nick Fury Sam Jackson does is Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and I never got into Nick Fury when he was Agent of SHIELD, you know, I was always the Howling Commando guy.
Screen Rant: You have no idea how much I just geeked out right now about you talking about Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos, that is amazing. So cool.
Stephen Lang:Well, it’s like, the interesting thing is the superhero I would choose is actually not a superhero at all, you know?
Screen Rant: Absolutely. I think that’s great.
Stephen Lang: He just had a great influence on me, I just freakin’ love Nick Fury and Dum-Dum, and Dave, and all that troop of guys.
Screen Rant: So, I got one last question for you, by the way, you’re amazing, one of my favorite films of 2016 came out of nowhere and that’s Don’t Breathe, it was literally the biggest unexpected hit of 2016, have there been any talks to bring the blind man back in a sequel or prequel?
Stephen Lang: Oh yeah.
Screen Rant: Oh yes!
Stephen Lang: Oh yeah, we’re doing a sequel.
Screen Rant: That’s amazing. I can’t wait for that, you, that movie was amazing.
Stephen Lang: Yeah, it’s a cool movie, well, Fede Alvarez is the real deal, I mean I just – that’s the thing, I feel, you know, we talk about Jason Momoa, about Fede Alvarez, talk about Jim Cameron, I could name another dozen people I feel like so fortunate, Josh Brolin . . . you know, I’ve done two pictures with Josh, not for a long time, and I was dead serious when I said that, I think that they made a great choice with Josh, I mean, that was the second best choice they could have made, no question, you know?
Screen Rant: Haha, no question!
Stephen Lang: But, I love him, but you know, it’s been . . . to work with the caliber of people that I’ve been fortunate to work with, you know, I’ve worked with Scott Cooper who’s Hostiles is coming out now, I get to go in and do a scene for him in his film, it’s just terrific. I know I sound kinda Pollyanna, but I feel really fortunate to be where I am, to work with really, the wonderful colleagues I’ve worked with.
Screen Rant: No, I mean listen, the roles you’ve chosen have been pretty much all groundbreaking and even like I said, Tombstone is a huge influence on me, like my father took me to that movie. I loved it. And this movie too, the second time I watched it, I made my father watch it with me, he loved this movie too, so thank you so much man. You’re amazing.
Stephen Lang: Thank you very much Joe, nice talking to you brother.
Screen Rant: Nice talking to you too, thank you so much Stephen!
MORE: Watch the Braven Trailer
Braven synopsis: Jason Momoa takes no prisoners in this intense action-thriller. When Joe (Momoa) and his father (Stephen Lang) arrive at their remote hunting cabin, they’re hoping for a quiet weekend. What they find is a stash of heroin, hidden in the cabin by drug traffickers. When the criminals suddenly descend upon the cabin, Joe and his father must make a kill-or-be-killed stand for survival.
Braven releases February 2nd, 2018 On Demand and nationwide in select theaters from Saban Films and Lionsgate.
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