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Movie Villain Monday: Eric Qualen - Cliffhanger (1993)

It’s Movie Villain Monday and this week’s movie villain was suggested way back in week four on the Facebook page.

It’s Eric Qualen from the 1993 action thriller Cliffhanger.

(I watched this film so much growing up! It’s easily one of my favourite Stallone movies). 👌

Who is Eric Qualen?

Played by the extremely versatile John Lithgow, Eric Qualen is the main antagonist in the snowy action-packed 90s flick.

Bio and Story:

Psychotic, ruthless and greedy, Qualen (a former British military intelligence operative gone bad), is the head of a group of highly skilled international thieves who attempt to steal $100 million dollars in uncirculated $1,000 dollar bills from a US Treasury plane in a daring mid-air heist over the Rocky Mountains.

When things go wrong and the cases containing the money are lost in the mountains, Qualen and his gang take two responding mountain rescue rangers hostage and force them at gunpoint to locate the money.

Motivation and Personality:

This guy is nasty! He cares about nothing more than finding the money and he’ll kill anyone that attempts to stand in his way.

He has no loyalty or compassion, just a greedy and ruthless obsession with achieving his goal.


Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight) originally had David Bowie in mind to play the role of Eric Qualen. Roxy Music lead singer Bryan Ferry was briefly considered and Christopher Walken was actually cast but left the project before filming began. John Lithgow was eventually cast at the last minute.

Over the years there’s been talk of a sequel to Cliffhanger as well as a remake. The original idea was thought up around 1994 and was to be called “Cliffhanger 2: The Dam” which would’ve seen Stallone’s character from the first film (Gabe) fighting against terrorists who took over the Hoover Dam. Luckily for us that film never got made but other ideas have been banded around over the years with none of them actually getting given the go ahead. Stallone still expresses an interest in making a sequel though so we may get one yet...

As well as being a great movie, Cliffhanger is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most expensive stunt ever performed. Stuntman Simon Crane was paid $1 million dollars for the mid-air heist scene where he essentially zip-lines between two planes at an altitude of 15,000 feet. Stallone offered to reduce his fee by that amount so the stunt could be performed. What a legend! 🙌

Despite being known for playing a number of unlikable villainous characters, John Lithgow has been described as an extremely kind and friendly man who’s a joy to work with.

I always think it’s a sign of a great actor when they can make you hate a character that’s so different to what they’re like in real life. 👌

“Kill a few people, and you're a murderer. Kill a million, and you're a conqueror. Go figure.”

Who should I feature next week? 🤔

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