There has never been a challenge Stephen Lang wasn't willing to meet head-on across his venerable career in Hollywood. His presence and intensity have shaped his acting for the better part of four decades playing such memorable roles like Freddy Lounds in Manhunter (1986), Ike Clanton in Tombstone (1993), Col. Miles Quaritch in Avatar (2009), and The Blind Man in Don't Breathe. His latest project is RLJE Films' Old Man, which focuses on a lost hiker, Joe (Marc Senter), who stumbles upon an erratic old man (Lang) living in the woods, never imagining the nightmare that awaits. Lang spoke to Bleeding Cool about working with director Lucky McKee, Senter, and how Allen Ginsberg served as an inspiration.
Stephen Lang Had Never Read Anything Like The Old Man Script
Bleeding Cool: What intrigued you about Old Man?
Lang: I'd never read anything quite like [Joel Veach's script], and I didn't quite understand it initially, but I knew that I was intrigued. It struck me as challenging, kind of dangerous, and darkly funny. It felt like a project that had some substance to it, even if I couldn't quite wrap my arms around what it was that gained my interest at the time. It was promising enough that I should be involved, and I was right. I was very glad I was.
How did Lucky run his set?
Lucky created a very specific and symbol-laden setting with the cabin. There was a lot of meaning to the objects. A lot of times, it was a personal meaning for him, which is very interesting. It marks him as an auteur to me that this setting at the cabin very much had Lucky's life larded into it. He and I had a lot of discussions about what really is this place, what is the atmosphere of this place, and we came to a conclusion. We both felt very strongly that it had a whole great kind of odor of Andrew Wyeth to it, and I'm a great fan of all the Wyeths, frankly. Andrew's paintings have this specificity to them, which aligns in 'Old Man.'
Also, an Andrew Wyeth portrait almost always has a sense of foreboding. Lucky, in many ways, is a portrait painter. He's very painterly as a director, and we could relate strongly along those lines. Just the other day, he sent me a still from it, which is me in my red overalls and lying bundled up on my bed. He said, "I'd say we captured Andrew Wyeth, wouldn't you?" because it does look like a Wyeth.
I like the cerebral and cryptic nature of the character. It kind of reminds me of your performance as the Blind Man in 'Don't Breathe.' Can you break down the nuance of your performance and having Marc as a scene partner and playing off each other?
The roles of the Blind Man and the Old Man are very different to me. With the Blind Man, there's a dark fog going on there, where electrical impulses are going off, and his synapses are firing like crazy for the Old Man. He's as wired as can be, which I would never say about the Blind Man. The fact [The Old Man] was so wired, having such an energetic leap from crack to crack mind, it meshed very well with Marc Senter's work because he brought a beautiful kind of a quietude, innocence, and an absorbent quality to his performance. They meshed quite well, and that was all native. He's doing what comes native to him, but it's also a mark of the work we did together and the rehearsal we did with Lucky, riding hard on us.
Were there some inspirations that can help drive your performance as the Old Man?
That's an interesting question. When I read it, the thing that came to mind was Allen Ginsberg's poem 'Howl." When I associate 'Howl,' I think of the beat movement. It makes me think of these kinds of raging prophets like poets standing on at Speaker's Corner in London, down on the Lower East Side, or out in San Francisco ranting and telling the truth as they see it, "spreading the gospel." That was an original inspiration, in a way. That was something I felt about the character.
Old Man, who also stars Liana Wright-Mark and Patch Darragh, is currently in theaters, digital, and on-demand.