Those who have seen Avatar know that the screen is constantly ripped apart by the warmongering Colonel Miles Quaritch, due to the impeccable delivery of seasoned actor Stephen Lang.
You think the dialogue is on the nose? Stephen Lang will bite your nose off.
A jack of all trades, Lang dabbles in film (Public Enemies, Men Who Stare at Goats), theater (he has written/starred in a one-man show about war veterens called Beyond Glory), and general ass kicking. But Lang helped me to realize, you can't whoop your enemies without using your brain. I assume this means "more headbutting."
Matt Patches: Here at this office we found Col. Quaritch to be particularly badass. How much of you is in this character? Are you the kind guy who would run out on to a planet without air just to fire bullets at some escaped prisoners?
Stephen Lang: Would depend. I'd need to find a analogous situation on the planet. Would you do something unreasonable on paper to achieve your goal? Depending on the purpose, the motive, I hope I would, you never know. I think there are certain aspects of Quaritch's psyche and soul that have been sheered away in vicious, vicious situations. Hopefully my soul and spirit are in better shape than his.
MP: What's more difficult, doing your one-man show or performing in Avatar where you're surrounded by nothing?
SL: Oh man, I'll tell you, the solo show...you really go to work when you do that. It's grueling. Mostly because you're doing it eight times a week. You have to stay fit. But Avatar presents its own set of challenges.
MP: What were some of the challenges working on this film? You play a pretty bad guy, how do you get in that mindset to rip people apart day in and day out?
SL: First of all, I don't think you go at it with the notion that you're playing a bad guy. This is a guy with a very, very difficult job, head of security at what is just an inherently insecure place. You're kind of doomed for daily frustration, it seems to me. The ship is springing leaks constantly. The preparation just has to do with physical conditioning, find the right mental attitude, the right physical attitude to the role, present a character who's self-image is extremely important to him because he's kind of iconic and needs to present this to the people on the base. An image of power, confidence and leadership.
MP: You have a background in writing, and when we spoke to [producer] Jon Landau, he mentioned you came in and worked on some of the dialogue in the film. Did you do any serious writing/improvising?
SL: Jim wants collaboration, so I was always encouraged to do that from the very first improvisational audition. We were always striving to find the right words, the right cadence for the character. That was part of the creation for the role, I don't think of it as sitting down and writing, all though there were certainly occasions where I did some writing on it.
MP: You have some particularly juicy lines in this film. One in particular we can't stop repeating around here...
SL: Which one?
MP: [my terrible impression of Lang] "Your REAL legs." Did you write that line?
SL: [laughter] If I did or I didn't, as a matter of policy, I probably wouldn't say, but the truth of the matter is, it's Jim's baby. But I do think that was a line that Jim wrote. "I'm gonna see you get your legs back, your REEEEEAL legs."
MP: Where we pick up the story of Avatar, we're kind of thrown in to an already existing scenario. Did you or Jim come up with a backstory for Quaritch?
SL: Absolutely. Lot of backstory. We take it as a given that Quaritch went through very, very dirty campaigns back on Earth. Three tours, we say, a full career in the marines. I think you go in to the service for one reason and then the reality is quite different. The rules of engagement are quite different. This is what we postulate in the 150 years from now. It's difficult to be a war hero with any kind of traditional integrity, in a way, because who are you fighting? Fighting children, an unseen enemy, you're fighting civilians, you're trying to survive. I think it's had a very dire effect on Quaritch. By the time he gets to Pandora...look, his whole skill set is about this kind of service, sensing threat and dealing with it. He's become pure function. He is in a sense the right man for the job, but in another sense, he's the wrong man for the job, because he doesn't understand the nature of this world. He's extremely aggressive and rigid in a world that demands absolute flexibility.
MP: So I know your character doesn't make it in the end, but...
SL: Don't be too sure.
MP: Well that's what I want to know, could we see the rise of Quaritch?
SL: Listen, the rules are different on Pandora. I can't say one way or another, but if you remember I say, "nothing's over as long as I'm breathing." Well my mantra now is, "nothing's over as long as I got DNA."
MP: I like that prospect! Who knows where people go on Pandora.
SL: I think it depends on where Jim wants to take the story. There's a whole universe of stories to be told and he's just scratched the surface.
the whole interview at the source