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With “Avatar,” Stephen Lang finds himself in first blockbuster

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BY GREG HERNANDEZ

As the villainous Colonel Quaritch in “Avatar,” Stephen Lang finds himself bit of an overnight movie star.

Having a key role in a film that is on the verge of becoming the second-biggest movie of all time can have that effect on a career – even for a veteran actor like Lang whose first major role came 25 years ago playing Dustin Hoffman’s son on Broadway in “Death of a Salesman.”

As of Thursday, the domestic gross for “Avatar” was at $512.8 million and still going strong and should surpass all-time number two “The Dark Knight” by this weekend. The all-time leader remains “The Titanic” at $600.8 million.

“I thought it was gonna do just fine, but I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the speed by which it would be embraced by basically the entire world,” Lang said in an interview with HollywoodNews.com. “I think it’s extraordinary and a testament to the universality of the story that [director] Jim takes, his canniness as truly a populist filmmaker.”

At 57, Lang is now stranger to success. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1992 for the play “The Speed of Darkness,” earned acclaim for starring in “Beyond Glory” off-Broadway and he originated the role of Col. Jessup on stage in A Few Good Men, a role made famous on film by Jack Nicholson.

Lang also had standout roles the films “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” “Tombstone,” “Gods and Generals” and last year’s “Public Enemies” and “Men Who Stare at Goats.”

But “Avatar” has suddenly overshadowed all of that and thrust Lang into the spotlight along with the rest of the film’s cast which also includes Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver, among others.

“I think it’s something that you maybe dream about but you don’t really worry about it too much,” he said of the blockbuster success. “You just go about your work.”

It is, he says, a wonderful feeling that he’d love to get used to.

“I remember the first time I had a huge Broadway hit and in its own way that’s extraordinary,” Lang recalled. “You spend a lot of time trying to get it again. Now having gone through this, I’m sure I’ll want to repeat it if possible.”

The sci-fi epic, winner on Sunday of the Golden Globe Award for best picture-drama, is heavy on special effects and breakthrough film making technology. That made acting in it all the more challenging – and rewarding.

“It was focused, very intense,” Lang said. “I think you wanted to stay on your toes to understand exactly what was going on because, you know, it wasn’t immediately apparent. It was a phenomenal experience and very unique.”

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