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SYFY WIRE Don't Breathe 2

‘Don’t Breathe 2’ star Stephen Lang shares how his character has (and hasn't) changed in the horror sequel

By Vanessa Armstrong
Don't Breathe 2

The horror movie Don’t Breathe opened five years ago to great acclaim, with special praise going to the character of Norman Nordstrom. Norman, an old blind man living in a house a group of kids decide to rob, played with people's expectations — and he turned out to be a really, really bad guy.

That bad guy is played by Stephen Lang, an actor who’s no stranger to playing not-so-nice characters. The movie's much-anticipated sequel, Don’t Breathe 2, is coming out this month, and co-writer Fede Álvarez has told us the sequel, directed by co-writer Rodo Sayagues, would be quite different than the first. There is one element, however, that has carried over — Lang is reprising his role as Norman. SYFY WIRE talked with Lang about being back in the Don’t Breathe universe as well as which one of his characters — Norman or Avatar’s Colonel Miles Quaritch — would win in a fight.

In Don’t Breathe 2, Norman is still a recluse but has one major change in his life — he now has a young daughter named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). Having someone to care about has shifted Norman’s priorities. “He finds a creature that needs him,” Lang explains. “In the first movie, [Norman] said, ‘Once one realizes there is no God, one is capable of anything.’ And in this movie, he starts out by saying, ‘God is fair.’ That's the lesson that he learned.”

The fact that Norman is concerned about someone else, however, hasn't made him a good guy. Those who’ve seen the first movie know the character committed horrific acts, including but not limited to murdering a bunch of people.

Lang says at the beginning of Don’t Breathe 2, Norman doesn’t feel remorse for what he has done in the past. “I think that he has compartmentalized a lot and locked away an awful lot of things,” he explains. “If he were capable of remorse, he would feel remorse. But at [the beginning of the movie], he is not capable of remorse because it would choke him to death… his sorrow, his regret, his self-loathing would be so great that he wouldn’t be able to breathe at all.”

Don't Breathe 2

Without getting into spoilers, we can say that Norman eventually changes during the course of the movie, in large part because his daughter, Phoenix, is in danger. Before things go bad for Phoenix, however, we see how she and Norman get along in day-to-day life. “It was nice having somebody to act with because in the first one I didn't act with anybody,” Lang says.

Lang's young co-star's grit on set was also impressive. “She was a real pro,” Lang shares. “She's got ice water running through her veins. That set is not an easy place to be — it's dark, it's got sharp edges, it's dirty, it's dank. But she’s just right there — they say action, she delivers. They say cut, she's Madelyn again.”

Both Don't Breathe movies make clear that Norman Nordstrom isn't a guy you’d want to go up against. Those who’ve seen Avatar as well, however, know that Lang’s character there — Colonel Miles Quaritch — isn’t someone you’d like to go up against either. Which begs the question: who would win in a fight, Nordstrom or Quaritch? Lang has the answer. 

“Look, if Norman was in his prime, I think Norman would acquit himself really well," Land says. "Having said that, the Colonel is a tough monkey —  you're just not going to beat him. I think Quaritch would probably blindfold himself, which would be an equitable thing to do. And it would also be an insulting thing to do, and that's Quaritch — that’s is the Colonel for you right there. It's the equivalent of fighting with one hand tied behind your back, but I think Quaritch would probably do pretty well against Norman. He’s bigger, he’s younger, he’s meaner. But Norman’s no pushover.”

You can see Norman being anything but a pushover when Don’t Breathe 2 premieres in theaters on Aug. 13.