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Stephen Lang

  1. Paul Reiser, Aliens, 1985.     Director James Cameron preferred Reiser as Carter Burke - but selected Lang to be the villain of the enormous triumph, Avatar, in 2008.
  2. Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1986.      In all, 39 possibilities for the  off-kilter, ’Nam vet cop Martin Riggs - not as mentally-deranged as in early drafts (he used a rocket launcher on one guy!)  Some ideas were inevitable: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn (shooting Aliens), Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, William Petersen, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. Some were inspired: Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum (he inherited Gibson’s role in The Fly),  William Hurt (too dark for Warner Bros), Michael Keaton, Michael Madsen, Liam Neeson, Eric Roberts. Some were insipid: Jim Belushi, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Stephen Lang, Michael Nouri (he joined another cop duo in The Hidden),  Patrick Swayze. Plus TV cops  Don  Johnson, Tom Selleck… three foreign LA cops:  Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dutch Rutger Hauer and French Christophe(r) Lambert. And the inevitable (Aussie) outsider Richard Norton.
  3. Roddy Piper, They Live, 1987The pitch was fine: Drifter finds some sunglasses that let him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth. And, apparently, the film.  Lousy! Which is probably why 18 other big guns, said nadato being Nada: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Dolph Lundgren, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis (plus three mere pistols: Brian Bosworth, Bruce Campbell, Stephen Lang).  And the less said about Russell’s wrestler replacement, the better.“Just John Carpenter as usual,” said the Washington Post,  “trying to dig deep with a toy shovel.”
  4. Bruno Kirby, The Basketball Diaries, 1994.     Swifty is the coach of New York’s St. Vitus High basketball players and more interested in their balls than their baskets. Lang passed due to the “misrepresentation” of Jim Carroll’s 1978 cult novel. Which took so long to be filmed that River Phoenix grew too old to play Carroll.
  5. Tom Berenger, Rough Riders, TV, 1996.     It may have been a pet John Milius project but the  mini-series budget didn’t accommodate Lang’s usual salary - to play Teddy Roosevelt leading his volunteer militia into the 1898 Spanish- American War. 
  6. Michael Biehn, Cherry Falls, 1999.     A busy diary meant Lang could not be Brent Marken, sheriff of Cherry Falls, where a madman is killing virgins… Biehn nearly threw the script away after 15 pages, until his agent told him to read on - and he fell for the satirical approach. Geoffrey Wright won a directing award at a Spanish festival but his film never opened in a US cinema.
  7. Michael Biehn, Cherry Falls, 2000.   Scheduling prevented Lang from being Sheriff Brent Marken. He admitted the only reason he wanted the role was to work some more with Brittany Murphy after being so impressed by her in Trixie, 1999.
  8. John Travolta, Ladder 49, 2004.    A good choice for a fire captain  as he was  playing a fire captain on-stage in  The Guys. Then, Travolta  was elbowed in. 
  9. Kurt Russell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2016.    Aged between Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow’s 87 and Matthew McConaughey’s 47, fifteen actors were Marveled about for Ego, father of Chris Pratt’s hero, Peter Quill aka Star Lord.  The others in the  loop were Lang, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christoph Waltz and Bruce Willis.
  10. Josh Brolin, Deadpool 2, 2017.   With Ryan Reynolds reigning supreme as the wise-cracking, cancer-ridden, super smart-ass hero, who could oppose him as Cable, the heftily armed cyborg? (“You’re dark - sure you’re not from the DC Universe?” our Marvel hero asks him). Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld wanted Russell Crowe - and even after Brolin signed, pushed for Jon Hamm. Other Mr Impregnable ideas included Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan, David Harbour, Stephen Lang, Brad Pitt (he shot his Vanisher cameo in two hours), Michael Shannon and the wrinkly brigade (yawn) Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren, Ron Perlman, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schawarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.Already Marvel’s villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Brolin had a four-film deal, to reveal more about Cable and, doubtless, extra gags about his stepmother Barbra Streisand’s 1982 Yentl.


 





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