Frankenweenie - Martin Landau interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
MARTIN Landau recalls his first impression of working with director Tim Burton and why he enjoyed reuniting with him on stop-motion hit Frankenweenie. He also reflects on working with Alfred Hitchcock. He was speaking at a press conference to mark the start of the London Film Festival.
Q. What was your first impression of working with Tim Burton?
Martin Landau: Well, I remember seeing Beetlejuice with my daughter and I said: “My God, who directed this?” I said: “I’d like to work with whoever it is.” I had no idea at that time. But I really was keen to work with this guy…. his imagination is mind-boggling! And here we are. It was a joyous experience working on Ed Wood with Johnny [Depp] and Tim. I found that half the time he never finished a sentence. He’d say: “Let’s rehearse…” I’d say: “OK.” And then we’d be rehearsing and he’d come over and say: “You know…” And I’d say: “Yeah…” I knew what was missing in a certain way and he’d say: “Let’s go again…”
It was an amazing experience because he created a playground for the actors and he still does that. And good directors do that. I mean it’s a fun place to go to work with Tim Burton and any time he asks me to do something I would drop what I was doing, including my pants…
Q. Your character looks like Vincent Price but doesn’t sound like Vincent Price. Was that a deliberate decision on your part?
Martin Landau: I’ll answer that question in a second but one of the things about this that I was flawed by was that Tim sent me a picture of Mr RzyKruski and behaviour is part of everything when you’re acting. I had a picture of this character [in my mind] but I relinquished the behaviour of the character to the animators, of course. But when I saw the film I was dumbfounded because if I’d been on camera I would have played it exactly the same… I was agape, actually, because I was shocked. I also did note that he looked a little bit like Vincent and a little bit like I did earlier in life. But I also saw him as a completely singular person and a wonderful teacher.
He’s not a very diplomatic person though! When I read it I also felt that he probably only lasted two months in any school he taught in because anyone who had a conversation with their students’ parents and called them ‘stupid’ was not very… anyway! I don’t think Vincent would have played it the way I did. I think it would have been a different thing… but I think there’s a physicality, no question. But I think one of the reasons why Tim was attracted to Ed Wood was because of Ed Wood’s connection to Bella Lugosi and his own appreciation of Vincent Price’s work. I also loved it as a kid. As a young actor, I would always go out of my way to watch a Vincent Price movie.
Q. Alfred Hitchcock is getting quite a bad rap at the moment. So, what was he like to work with for you?
Martin Landau: He certainly did not make advances to me! I’ve read some of the things that some of the actresses have said but I didn’t see any of that behaviour. He was a practical joker and I got along very well with him. I even was amazed that he cast me in that film because he saw me in a play in which I played a diametric character… someone I played 180 degrees differently to the one I played in Hitchcock’s film. I actually said to him: “How did you see me in that and then cast me in this?” And he said [in Hitchcock accent]: “Martin, you have a circus going on inside of you. If you can do that part in the theatre, you can do this little trinket!”
- Read our review
- Tim Burton interview
- Martin Landau interview
- Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara interview
- Frankenweenie Character Portrait Gallery
- Frankenweenie Photo Gallery
- Frankenweenie Retro Poster Gallery
- Watch the trailer