Interview with Stephen Lang: The Old Man
Stephen Lang is back in the horror thriller genre with Old man. Lang plays the lead role, a recluse who finds his relatively quiet existence interrupted by a lost hiker, with whom he engages in an increasingly hostile conversation.
Alongside Lang, the cast of Old man includes Marc Senter, Liana Wright-Mark and Patch Darragh. The film, which comes from director Lucky McKee from a script by debut writer Joel Veach, is a harrowing journey down the descent of two characters with diametrically opposed ideologies, though they may be more similar than audiences initially realize.
In anticipation of the film’s release, Screen Rant sat down exclusively with star Stephen Lang to discuss Old manthe poetic nature of the film’s story, the comparisons with don’t breatheis the blind man, and more.
Stephen Lang on The Old Man
Screen Rant: I’m very excited to talk about Old man. Went there after hearing a few things at festival screenings but didn’t know anything else and was blown away. It really is a treat. What about the movie that really got you interested in wanting to be a part of it?
Stephen Lang: When I read it, it was a headache for me. I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading, I knew it wasn’t a conventional movie, so to speak, my first belief was probably that it originally wasn’t written as a screenplay of film, l that it was probably written as a play. But even as a play it’s an extremely particular piece, and ultimately where I got to thinking about it was that it almost struck me as an extended piece of poetry, almost sort of improvised poetry. The character was kind of free association, it seemed to me, and ranting and aggressive.
It reminded me a bit of Allen Ginsberg, some of Allen Ginsberg’s work, in a way, which is a plus for me, because it brings back all the sensitivity to rhythm. There seems to me to be something anachronistic about The Old Man in the first place, so those are just some of the feelings that were swirling as I read it. I found it intriguing enough to want to pursue it, to find out what piqued my interest in it. The whole shoot, if I remember correctly, was 14 days of shooting, it was a constant exploration and massage of exactly what we were talking about in this movie, which is extremely murky.
To say the least.
Stephen Lang: I’m someone who generally seeks clarity and wants things to be really presented, in a certain way. It wasn’t so much the case with this thing, and I learned to really deal with it and yeah, kind of enjoy it
Many horror genre fans know you from the don’t breathe films as a very different type of old man. I know it’s not quite horror, but there are elements of horror. How was it for you to separate these two characters?
Stephen Lang: Oh my God, I don’t think I spent a moment mixing the characters in my mind, to be perfectly honest. The Blind Man, the similarity is they both have the same last name, Man, there’s Old Man and then there’s Blind Man, I actually did a movie last spring called Lucky Man, so maybe they are three. But in any case, I don’t think I’ve ever [saw] The blind; it takes up this whole other area of my brain, my soul, and my heart, and when I need to tap into it, I can.
But this guy, his life is a fever dream, it seems to me, he’s kind of in this loop of illusion upon illusion upon illusion, which is nothing like anything The Blind Man, by example, is associated. I guess the only thing they had was that they’re both crusty old bastards, that’s what they are. [Chuckles]
Yes, they just go about it in different ways.
Stephen Lang: Yeah, that’s where the resemblance ends. [Chuckles]
What was it like getting into the heart of Old Man for this film?
Stephen Lang: I remember it was a very isolated shoot, it was during the pandemic, and we were shooting in Newburgh, New York, and a nice studio there. And it was all very insular. So it was from the hotel to the studio, and all like that, and of course, the set, we’re on a soundstage, but in the soundstage, they built this booth, where everything was happening. So we were kind of in a working cocoon there, which made it very easy for me to inhabit the weirdness of this guy.
And, to be honest, I spent an awful lot of time on this one with the words, because there are so many of them, and they’re good words. Joel Veach, the writer, was there, and we constantly massaged it, constantly trying not to rationalize it, but to make sense of it. So that was really interesting, I thought to myself, because there was a whole literary aspect to working on this role, which is not necessarily the case for so many people. And that, again, ties in with my idea that this thing is, in a way, he spews out this poem.
I hadn’t put that thought together, but now that you put it out there, I can totally see what you’re talking about. Since you mentioned the very murky nature of the story I’ll save that for after the movie comes out but I’m curious the ending feels like it could have a few different interpretations how do you see the big revelation in the film?
Stephen Lang: I think it’s sort of an endless loop, it’s still déjà vu for him. All this film can take place in the blink of an eye, behind the eyeball of the man who is a little in this feverish dream. I don’t know if it’s real, I don’t know if it matters that it’s real. I know he’s like that gerbil on the mill that keeps running and falls down exhausted and wakes up to find he’s still on the mill and running. Where does it end? Hard to say.
Yes, I agree with that sentiment.
Stephen Lang: It’s also scary, it’s really a bit scary, and it’s a bit sad too. It’s a bedroom thriller, if we want to characterize it, let’s say what genre it is. I don’t think it’s horror, there’s elements to it I guess, but it’s definitely a bedroom thriller, and it’s really a descent into madness.
Yeah, I agree, and I totally agree that it doesn’t matter if it’s all real or not, because it really is a great way to learn about this character.
Stephen Lang: One of the things our director, the excellent Lucky McKee, says is that he talks about the film as an atmospheric film. In many ways the atmosphere is absolutely paramount, it’s like you’re going somewhere to have an experience, but what’s really going on where you are is just that atmosphere and everything that becomes predominant , which begins to dominate. I think it happens here.
One of the other things that Lucky and I talked about early on was Andrew Wyeth’s work. He’s a great painter, you know, the Wyatt family and the specificity of his work, the rigor of his work. There’s always a very disturbing quality to his work, so we tried to do that. It was part of our bond, Lucky and mine, that we had when talking about this film.
About the old man
Deep in the woods, a lost hiker stumbles upon the cabin of an erratic, reclusive old man. What begins as a cordial conversation quickly turns dangerous as it becomes clear that one or both of them could be hiding a terrifying secret.
Next: Don’t Breathe 2 Ending & Credits Scene Explained: Is It [SPOILER] Dead?
Old man hits theaters, VOD, and digital platforms on October 14.