Birthdate: July 11, 1952
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Stephen Lang is a powerful, veteran actor who has proven to be one of the most reliable supporting actors in the movies, including his portrayals of strikingly different though equally aggressive military men, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson in Gods and Generals (2003) and Col. Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and Avatar: The Way of Water (2022). Lang’s film debut was in the Bud Yorkin-directed drama, Twice in a Lifetime (1985), starring Gene Hackman, Ann-Margret, Ellen Burstyn, Amy Madigan, Ally Sheedy, and Brian Dennehy.
His next significant role was in writer-director Michael Mann’s Hannibal Lecter thriller, Manhunter (1986), with William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, and Dennis Farina. Lang’s first starring role was a striking performance in the little-seen but excellent Uli Edel-directed adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989), with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Burt Young.
Stephen Lang was part of an imposing male cast as Maj. Gen. George Pickett in writer-director Ronald Maxwell’s Gettysburg (1993), starring Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and Sam Elliott, and turning a failed theatrical run into a hit TNT broadcast and subsequent home video sales and rentals, leading a decade later to the poorly-received and commercially failed prequel, Gods and Generals, also written and directed by Maxwell but in which Lang changed roles to notorious Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.
Lang enacted another notorious historical figure, Wyatt Earp rival Ike Clanton, in the George P. Cosmatos-directed Tombstone (1993), with Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Elliott, Bill Paxton, Billy Zane, and Charlton Heston, and grossing over $73 million on a budget of $25 million. Lang played a good guy—a real-life FBI agent who shot John Dillinger and Charles Winstead—in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009), starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, and Stephen Dorff, amassing an impressive global gross of over $214 million.
Lang joined George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor, and Kevin Spacey in the spy comedy, The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), with worldwide earnings nearly tripling its $24 million costs. Stephen Lang’s movie profile experienced a major boost in his significant supporting baddie role in James Cameron’s mega-hit, Avatar (2009), starring Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver, grossing a ballistic global box office of over $2.9 billion.
Lang parlayed his Avatar success into the role of Khalar Zym in the reboot of Conan the Barbarian (2011), starring Jason Momoa, Rose McGowan, and Ron Perlman, but failing at the box office with a $63.5 million gross. In one of his rare vocal performances in animation, Lang was part of the cast of the successful computer-animated The Nut Job (2014), with Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl, and grossing nearly $121 million worldwide.
Stephen Lang achieved cult status as The Blind Man in the horror thriller, Don’t Breathe (2016, directed by Fede Alvarez and produced by Sam Raimi, Alvarez, and Robert Tapert, earning a huge $158 million on a $10 million budget, and spawning a sequel, Don’t Breathe 2 (2021), starring Lang under co-writer Rodo Sayagues’ direction, earning nearly $54 million on a $15 million budget.
Lang summoned another of his commanding portrayals of military characters in Scott Cooper’s fine, well-reviewed Western, Hostiles (2017), starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and Wes Studi, premiering at the Telluride film festival. Lang played opposite Jason Momoa and Garret Dillahunt in the thriller Braven (2018), directed by Lin Oeding, followed by another box-office and critical disappointment, the Peter Jackson-produced and co-written Mortal Engines (2018), which made records a box-office failure, losing Universal Pictures an estimated $175 million.
In a busy 2022 (in which Lang was featured or starred in five features), by far the standout was Cameron’s long-anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, with new cast mates Cliff Curtis, CCH Pounder, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Bailey Bass, Jack Champion, Edie Falco, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, and Matt Gerald. Lang played support in the sports biopic, Pep (2023), directed by Robert Kolodny and produced and edited by Robert Greene, followed by Lang starring in the Isaac Florentine-directed Hellfire (date to be announced), with Harvey Keitel and Dolph Lundgren. Lang is set to return as Quaritch in Cameron’s upcoming sequels, tentatively titled Avatar 3 (2024) and Avatar 4 (2026), both with Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana.
Stephen Lang’s considerable credits in the theater include several major performances (some of them Tony-nominated and Tony-winning) in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1984) (opposite Dustin Hoffman), Steve Tesich’s The Speed of Darkness (1992), Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men (1989), Miller’s Finishing the Picture (2005), John Patrick Shanley’s Defiance (2006), as well as his own one-man play, Beyond Glory, which had its off-Broadway staging at the Roundabout Theatre in 2007 and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for best solo performance.
New York City-born Stephen Lang was raised by parents Theresa and philanthropist/entrepreneur Eugene Lang, along with older siblings Jane and David. Lang attended New York City public schools in Queens, Fresh Meadows for elementary and middle school, and then the Quaker boarding school, George School, in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
Lang graduated from Swarthmore College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1973. His father, Eugene, donated his estimated $150 million in net worth to charities, insisting that his children be self-sufficient. Lang has been married to Kristina Watson since 1980; the couple has four children, including Lucy Lang, the Inspector General of New York state. Lang’s height is 5’ 10½”.
AKA: Stephen Lang’s nickname is “Slang.”
Honorary: Lang received an honorary degree in 2010 from his alumnus College, Swarthmore College, for his career, and also received an honorary Doctorate in Human Letters from Jacksonville University.
Artist: Stephen Lang was artist-in-residence at Northeastern University in 2011.