Stephen Lang: “A lot of the characters I play, if I don’t love them, nobody will”

Stephen Lang, has a resume a mile long, in both theater and film. “Some actors are hired to play themselves, and that’s fine,” says Lang. “But I’ve always been asked to play a role. I’ve never been asked to play Stephen Lang.”

In the new film “White Irish Drinkers,” though, he plays a new sort of role, that of a poor, angry, damaged and drunken head of household in 1970s Brooklyn. “My first response to the script was a little bit fearful,” Lang says. “The amount of pain this man has — do I have that to access? Do I want to access that, and now know that’s inside me?”

Lang says there are times he feels type cast  playing the tough as nails role. “I tell you, a lot of the characters I play, if I don’t love them, nobody will. But if I love them enough, maybe people will at least recognize them.”

As a kid, his grandfather took him to the theater, he knew he had found his destiny. “I thought, great, okay, I can relax now ‘cause I know what I’m going to be when I grow up,” he said. “I’m going to be an actor. I just knew … And I think that’s the truth for a lot of actors. It’s a calling, not unlike the priesthood.”

“Of course, not everyone who gets the calling is destined to be great at it, which can be a sad thing,” Lang says. “But I was always determined to get better, and I worked at it … You know, you work and work and work to get your foot in the door until one day you realize, oh, I actually went through the door awhile ago. I’m actually in the room.”

He feels enormously grateful to have fulfilled his childhood dream. “Eventually you realize that your life is in your hands, not in the hands of people who don’t know you,” he says. “Other people can make decisions on whether I get a job, they can have opinions of whether I was any good, but I will not allow them to determine my sense of self-worth … So, at this stage of my life, I feel really good about things. And if I’ve been typed a little bit, and sort of put in that old-stud niche, that’s just fine with me. Tommy Lee Jones can’t play everything.”

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