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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 of Frankenweenie

Read our interview with Tim Burton