As you may remember, Stephen Lang's character in James Cameron's Avatar, Colonel Quaritch, didn't live to see the end of the movie. Because of this, it was rather surprising news when it was revealed by the writer/director that Quaritch would be destined to become the Darth Vader of the franchise. As it turns out, this news came as quite a shock to Lang as well... even though Cameron had actually told him about the character's future early on.
With his new movie Don't Breathe in theaters next month, I had the pleasure of hopping on the phone with Stephen Lang to talk about his upcoming work. When he started talking about the future of Avatar, I was curious how the news of Quaritch's resurrection was delivered to him. He noted that at no point during the making of the first movie did he think a sequel was inevitable, but it led to a fun chat between him and James Cameron after the 2009 film became a record-shattering hit around the world. Said Lang,
When it kind of became this global phenomena, it was within a very, very short time that the man said to me, 'You're coming back,' and I said, 'How?' He said, 'I told you that already!' And you know, he'd mentioned it once, a long time ago, when we'd been shooting, but it was speculative! You don't dare to believe anything. 'It's totally not real.' [laughs]
Beyond the positive news delivered to him about the future of his career in the Avatar universe, Stephen Lang also had another big takeaway from this conversation with James Cameron, and his memory of the one they had during the making of the movie. The writer/director never had plans for Avatar to just be one story, but instead was thinking about the project on the most epic of blockbuster scales:
But what it says is that Jim had a saga, an epic in his mind, all the time. Now, I think that certainly if Quaritch had not been as successful a character as he was - and it was interesting, the number of people who liked Quaritch, along with reviling him. But I think it's possible he wouldn't have come back, but the circumstances just made it, I wouldn't say inevitable, certainly not in my mind, but perhaps they were in Jim Cameron's mind. We had a good working relationship. It was a successful character, and, you know, lucky me!
As we now know, James Cameron does indeed have some big and unprecedented plans for the future of Avatar. As we officially learned earlier this year, the writer/director has been hard at work not one, not two, not three, but four sequels, set to arrive in December 2018, 2020, 2022, and 2023, respectively. The seven years since Avatar's release has been devoted to developing the four scripts simultaneously, and the plan is to shoot everything all at the same time (hence why Stephen Lang thinks he may ultimately be too busy to possibly play Cable in Deadpool 2).