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INT: Martin Landau

10.07.2008

It’s not everyday that I have an opportunity to meet a legendary and prominent Oscar-winning actor who’s worked throughout the evolution of Hollywood cinema. Although Martin Landau rich career is comprised of a long list of roles, he is best remembered for his part in the TV series Mission: Impossible, CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and ED WOOD to name a few. Naturally, it was a momentous occasion for me when a group of us met Landau last year in Belfast, while he was working on the set of his soon to be released film CITY OF EMBER.  

Landau creates the part of Sul, Doon’s pipe-working mentor, under the direction of Gil Kenan in the family adventure film.  I was delighted to sit down with the classy, charming star who’s clearly blessed with a warm and pleasant sense of humor. He’s also sharper and wittier than most people half his age.  See what Landau had to say about acting, his take on Sul and the film during our chat last September, and check out the film when it hits theatres Friday, Oct. 10th.

Martin Landau

What do you think of the CITY OF EMBER set?

It’s amazing. It’s quite an amazing set, extensive and tall and comfortable. I would say it’s quite remarkable. It’s actually the way I envisioned it. I did CLEOPATRA a few thousand years ago in prehistoric times when there were real dinosaurs at the La Brea Tar Pits. We had massive sets, you know, and generally you don’t get to see them.

Can you talk a little bit about your character?

My character? Well I’m not going to tell you too much about him. He’s got narcolepsy and when he sits down he falls asleep. When he’s up, he’s up, and he has responsibilities and only certain responsibilities. There are other things he doesn’t do and he’s totally inept at, but what he does do, he does very well. He’s really Doon’s mentor. He’s teaching him the ropes of a specific kind of thing. He’s full of surprises. He’s actually a character that I liked. I liked him a lot. You have to like the guy I play, even if he’s a heinous villain because villains that simply are villains. This guy’s not. He’s a good villain, but he has a limited perspective. Lots of people have.

What was it that appealed to you about City of Ember?

I think it’s a kind of movie that’s not made anymore. And that always interests me. It’s a terrific children’s book, and it’s not really a children’s book, it’s an adult book children’s book. It’s a movie that every kid of any age can see. It’s got all kinds of stuff in it that’s intriguing on a lot of levels. It’s a character-driven movie and yet it has action and adventure and all kinds of stuff. That’s a rarity.

There aren’t any fireballs or car chases and people climbing up the sides of buildings or sliding down the sides of buildings. All the characters are defined, direction, developed and in a lot of those films they’re not. I mean, they’re pretty transparent and pretty simplistic, pretty one-dimensional. So what you have here is an interesting movie in that you’ve got characters that are defined in a strange environment. It’s about young people and old people, and it’s an unusual script as a result. I think it’s got some of the elements of a HARRY POTTER. It’s got a lot of things going for it. I think it’s what attracted Bill Murray and attracted Tim [Robbins] as well.

It’s a movie you can take your kids to and take your grandparents to, and it will be of interest to all of them. That doesn’t happen a lot. I know a lot of people who haven’t been to the movies in a long time. They usually go in December when there’s a couple of character-driven films up for Oscars, but that’s about it. And this is, again, a film that I think has an appeal on a lot of different levels.

When you got the script, as a former theater guy did you create a history or a back-story of these characters?

It’s hard to explain how I work on a role, but I do a lot of that in a certain way. There are actors who create an entire biography and then the character doesn’t have any of that. But I generally do think about, you know, where he comes from, why he’s there, what he does, why he does it, what his parents might be. …A lot of things, yeah, and a sound, too. You know, I’m sort of a stickler for certain things, too. I watch a lot of -- well not a lot, but some, -- there’s a lot of Chicago cops playing New York cops on television. Drives me crazy. Specifics are important, I think, and they’re not paid a lot of attention to.

Did you have any trepidation at all about working with a director on his second film?

No. I talked to him on the telephone.  I liked him immediately. He’s smart, he’s bright, he’s sensitive, he’s kind, and imaginative. Outside of that, I can’t say a damn good thing about him! (jokingly)

 

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Source: JoBlo.com

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