TVgen Chat with Martin Landau

TVGEN: Welcome to the TVGEN/Yahoo! Chat Auditorium. Our guest tonight is a veteran of television and movies, as well as an Academy Award-winning actor, Martin Landau. He plays a key role in X-Files: Fight the Future. Known to movie audiences for his award-winning performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, Landau is also well known for his starring roles in both the Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999 TV series.

Martin Landau: Hi, everybody! Happy to be with you this afternoon and this evening, and ask any questions you want. I may refrain from answering some, but I'm here to help out...

SSMelies: Did you approach the producers to get the role or did they want YOU to play Dr. Kurtzweil?

Landau: No, Chris Carter called me and asked me to do it. And I read the script and my main concern before accepting the role was, would the film work if people had never seen the X-Files on TV. And my fears were allayed completely because when I read the script, I realized that it would work for people who had never seen a single episode of the X-Files. It would work for people who occasionally visited the show, and it would work, of course, for people who were avid fans of the X-Files. It was a good movie unto itself. I then accepted the role, which has a lot of information doled out out of my character's mouth. Chris Carter wanted someone who appears somewhat crazy and credible at the same time, which is an interesting dichotomy, and he felt like I could bring that to the role. Because my character is a catalyst, it was necessary to appear somewhat mad, yet credible.

Thekmaster: Are you surprised about the hype for this film?

Landau: No. I was attached to a television series, Mission: Impossible, which had a worldwide following years ago. It was an international phenomenon. A lot of the people who are chatting now were probably not yet alive. We didn't do a movie at the time, though there was some discussion of it. I also did a movie, Space: 1999, which is also in lots of countries as we speak. So I'm very aware of the power of television, and particularly the power of well-produced and well-written television. There is a lot of TLC, tender loving care, put into the X Files, both the TV show, and of course, the film.

Calif_SkinnyDippingMan_37: What was it like to work with Cary Grant and James Mason in North by Northwest? Heck, what was it like to work with Hitchcock, and are there any directors out there like Hitch?

Landau: Well, I was a young actor from New York, recently arrived in Hollywood, when I did North by Northwest. Hitchcock had seen me on opening night at the Biltmore Theatre in Los Angeles, now a parking lot, in the play, written by Paddy Chyefsky, who is famous for the films Network and Hospital. The play starred Edward G. Robinson, and my wife in the play was a very young Gena Rowlands. I had done it on Broadway for a while prior to touring it. Although the role was a 180 degrees different than the role I played in North by Northwest, Hitchcock saw something in me that encouraged him to hire me. Working with Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and the rest was a joy. In answer to part two of that question, obviously good directors are unique unto themselves. They bring their own style and stamp to their work, their own modus operandi. There isn't really another Hitchcock, which is why his films are singular unto themselves. But I have been fortunate in working with other singular directors, such as Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Francis Coppolla, and Tim Burton, Woody Allen, Henry Hathaway, and the list goes on. I just finished a film working with the director Ron Howard. I played Matthew McCoughnehy and Woody Harrelson's stepfather in a comedy called Ed TV. I also have a film coming out with a very good director called John Dahl, in which I costar with Matt Damon, a Miramax film called Rounders. I also just finished a film called The Joy Riders, in which I am hijacked and kidnapped by three young kids and taken on a joyride, which is really a ride from hell. And what I'm basically saying is that all of the directors I've been working with are interesting new directors, though Ron Howard and John Dahl have been around a while.

Thekmaster: Are you surprised that Space: 1999 is so popular?

Landau: Oh, well, a lot of hard work went into Space: 1999. And I think from a production point of view it was very, very well done. The special effects were really state-of-the-art at the time for a TV show. We tried to do intelligent stories, it's hard to do a sci-fi series week in and week out and keep the standard up, but I feel when you do something with a lot of care and try to do a good episode each week, you hope that people will appreciate it in the years to come.

DruSlayer: Mr. Landau, do you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, since Juliet plays Drusilla?

Landau: I've watched it quite a few times. I watch every episode Juliet is on. And I've seen some where she's appeared briefly or even where she's not on. But I try to see every one, or tape them. I do enjoy watching her work with pride.

Chandybing: Can you describe how it feels to win an Academy Award?

Landau: Well, a feeling of euphoria. I don't think I've ever been as high and as sober in my life. Probably the closest to an out-of-body experience as I've ever had.

Bad_Boy_Yeah: What type of movies do you like to do best: drama, action, maybe comedy?

Landau: I like all of them, actually, it really gets down to the role, doesn't it? For instance, the four films I just mentioned — The X-Files, Rounders, The Joyriders, and Ed TV — in each of them I play a totally different kind of character. They are all different kinds of films. The texture is different, the essence is different, the character is different. And that interests me. There's no similarity to any of those roles. They are four completely disparate men.

GattMan36: What was it like working with Tim Burton?

Landau: A truly joyful experience. Tim creates a playground. By the time we started, I had done a lot of homework, having watched 35 Lugosi films and five or six interviews he gave over the years on tape and film. We had played with the makeup, done some tests, and Tim believed me able to go in any direction as Lugosi when we started. And as a result allowed me a great deal of freedom, which is always joyful. Johnny Depp and I hit it off very well, as I did with Tim. And we had a very creative and congenial and enthusiastic atmosphere in which to work and play.

Thekmaster: Were you surprised at the security measures to keep the content of the X-Files movie a secret??

Landau: When I first got the script it was printed on dark red paper with my name emblazoned in dark letters and a number underneath my name on every page so that it would be virtually impossible to Xerox. Also making it very difficult to read! Needed a lot of candle power and sometimes my name, because of the lettering, obliterated some of the lines of dialogue. But I read enough to know that I knew it was a good script. And I appreciated Chris Carter and his team's desire for secrecy.

Prjn1: Playing in Space: 1999 and the X-Files movie, do you enjoy science-fiction literature?

Landau: Yes. I grew up reading the old timers, like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Graduating to Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Harlan Ellison. And more contemporary writers. It's always been an intriguing medium in which to say pertinent and philosophical and contemporary things and ideas.

Dick_Brudzynski: What are some of the most important lessons you've learned in your lengthy and successful acting career?

Landau: To work hard. Be prepared. And embrace any and all ideas and suggestions. And have the strength for what I believe in. To fight for what I believe in. And acknowledge the fact that no one ever acts alone, like a good tennis game, you rise to the player you're playing with. The acceptance of all of those facts can only make you a better actor.

JASON__21: Where did you put your Oscar?

Landau: It's in my den over the television set, surrounded by other awards (Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild award, Critics Awards, and the like.) It's a nice little display I've acquired, I'm happy to say.

Thekmaster: You have worked with mystery shows, such as Mission: Impossible, and science fiction, such as Space: 1999, how does it feel to be working in a film that has a little bit of both?

Landau: Well, it feels good. I'm not foreign to it. Having done the second Twilight Zone ever done and subsequent ones, two of the original Outer Limits, over 80 episodes of Mission: Impossible, 48 episodes of Space: 1999. It's familiar terrain. Also having seen, of course, The X-Files on numerous occasions. And Chris Carter sending me six hours of tapes, some of which hadn't aired yet, leading up to the movie.

Sneaky00: What was the most memorable experience you've had in your career?

Landau: I've had many. Working on Cleopatra for a year with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Rome. Working with Hitchcock, of course. Working on Ed Wood, which was a highlight of course. Crimes and Misdemeanors, which was a wonderful script and film with Woody Allen. Working with Jeff Bridges and Coppolla on Tucker. And of course, Mission: Impossible, the entire experience. Space: 1999 was exciting. There are many, many more.

Chandybing: Can you tell us something about your character in the X-Files movie? Is he a good or a bad guy?

Landau: I'd rather not reveal that. The movie's going to open on Friday and I think it would be doing an injustice to the film and to you, the viewer; it would be much better for you not to know that. And for you to learn about my character along with Mulder.

Eliza_bennet: Martin, was it difficult to be the actor that is new to a group that has worked together for years?

Landau: No, I felt very welcome. Chris Carter and his team, David Duchovny was a very generous actor. He was very easy to work with, very professional, very prepared. And game. The other character I worked with, to a lesser degree, was John Neville, the well-manicured man. All of whom were very welcoming. I felt at home immediately.

Lesliecarver: Do you prefer to play good guys or bad guys, and why?

Landau: I prefer to play interesting guys. I don't think any guy is all good or bad. One of things I've come to appreciate is the more interesting a character is, the more layered, the better time I have. The more complicated the character is, usually, the better I am. I love to investigate all sides of a character. When I play a good guy, I try to bring out other human traits in him that take away the goody-two-shoes aspect of that character. When I play a bad guy, I try to find areas where there is some humanity. Otherwise, it's just one dimensional. Clearly there are characters who are evil to procreate the essence of a movie. But that doesn't mean I can't add elements that will allow him to be identifiable to an audience.

Thekmaster: Do you think "the truth is out there", with respect to extraterrestrial life?

Landau: I believe anything is possible. Walking up a flight of stairs without having to plug yourself into a wall socket is miraculous. Forms of life exist on this planet, fathoms beneath the surface of the sea, that if we didn't compare the possibilities of extraterrestrial life with the human factor, make it very conceivable in all of the galaxies and universes that exist, make it possible to believe that life forms undoubtedly exist somewhere out there. We're just vain in thinking that if things don't breathe oxygen and look like ourselves, that there isn't the probability of life. Think about all the forms of life that exist under extreme conditions here on our small, little orb.

Thinker_90046: Hello Mr. Landau, it's a pleasure. I am a theater student at the University of Southern California and was wondering what advice you might have to offer me/those like me trying to break in.

Landau: Study hard. Be tenacious. Learn to accept rejection. Use negative experiences in a positive way. And again, work hard to be as good as you can be. A talented actor who can only use a small portion of his talent under fire is not as hirable as a less talented actor who knows how to use 95 percent of his talent.

Thekmaster: Are there any directors that you would like to work with?

Landau: Yes. I'd like to work with Scorsese, Sidney Lumet and others.

Fayerbanke: What is the secret to learning lines?

Landau: Knowing what you're talking about. When you know what you're talking about, they cease to become lines and become a means to communicating what your character needs to say. Sometimes it's to hide real feelings. Sometimes it's to express your character's beliefs. But if you know what your intention is, they become necessary statements and not lines.

Jar1000: Do you have any special plans for Sept. 13, 1999?

Landau: That is the day, actually, that on Space: 1999, the day that the moon was blasted out of orbit on the series. And we were 300-plus people who were set off on a trajectory that was uncontrollable. Leading to 48 hours of adventure and misadventure. I hope on that date I will not be blasted out of orbit. Therefore, my plan is to stay on the earth, fully aware of my surroundings, cognizant of the fact that it is a special date, but with my two feet on the ground.

Chandybing: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Landau: Lately, I've had little spare time. I have a production company that involves me when I'm not in front of the cameras. I have done four films since September, and my work with my partners has kept me very, very involved. I do like going to the beach, I still like to paint and draw. I like writing, and I have other interests as well.

Mattrose_98: Where was the movie filmed?

Landau: Most of my work took place in Los Angeles itself. The film was shot in several places, but very little of it in Vancouver. The series was shot entirely in Vancouver. I worked in the L.A. area in actual locations.

Thekmaster: What did you think of Tom Cruise's portrayal in Mission: Impossible?

Landau: Well, the film had little to do with the series. The series was a group effort. A team of specialists setting out to accomplish a difficult task. The ideal mission was to get in and out without anyone ever knowing we were there, and allowing them to do themselves in. In the film, the team is destroyed early in the movie. The Phelps character is portrayed as a double agent. And everyone knew that Thomas Cruise's character was there. It was actually an action-adventure film, which the series never was. Therefore, it's like comparing apples and pears. And though his character was somewhat reminiscent of my character, Rollin Hand, there were great differences.

Well, thank you for the intelligent questions. Thank you for being interested, thank you for taking the time, and I'll see you on the big screen! I hope you enjoy the film half as much as I enjoyed making it. Until next time, this is Martin Landau saying so long!

TVGEN: Thanks for being here, everyone!

 
 
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