The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Martin Landau

Comments from a 1994 interview with French television. A 44 minute version of this was released as an extra on the Network Year 2 Blu-ray.

Mission Impossible and Star Trek

Martin Landau in 1994

I don't know if you know that I was originally offered the Spock role. Gene Roddenberry contacted me and asked if I would read this script. And I did. And I turned it down. I said it's very interesting, and it's the 1960s. A character who is all knowing and devoid of emotion, I said, would be very very impressive, in terms of the public. But not for me. Because it's the antithesis... I mean to be lobotomised... This is not my idea of having a good time. And Bruce Geller's office and Gene Roddenberry's office were side by side in the same building, which was unique, I mean it's the same, Desilu. While we were shooting Mission Impossible on 2 stages, the next 2 stages had Star Trek, so we we went on the air together, we grew up together. I mean I see Lenny [Nimoy] all the time and Bill Shatner and their guest stars and we were working I mean literally next door neighbours. They were on a different network, they on NBC, we were on CBS. But I had an opportunity to play that role and I opted for the one man repertory company, which which excited me. I mean I never knew until I read the script what was in store. And it was always something exciting, something interesting, something difficult. That stuff is fun.

Yeah I had to learn all kinds of things, for the show I learned how to do those things. I have a guy come in literally in the morning, somebody like the old professor who's just passed away, he was great. Dai Vernon was his name. He was the best card man, and he'd teach me tricks. Fortunately I learned them very quickly, because I had to do them that day, as if I've been doing them my whole life. So there with those kinds of things. I mean [director] Lenny Horn would come in and say I want you to do a bunch of tricks and amuse the people. He said go in there with with Jay Aussie and Dai Vernon and they'll teach you some tricks. I said okay you know, great, and I'd go in and they would teach me about 3 or 4 parlour tricks that I had to entertain people with. And then I had to learn them and then do some half an hour later as if I've been doing my whole life. Watch this! But that's what I liked about it. I mean, you have to kind of... hey, I can do that... I think. So, yeah, sure, I will be okay. And then boom.

The show I did with Barbara played the Marlene Dietrich character and I had, you know. I think Cabaret was running simultaneously. I saw Cabaret in its out of town try-out in Boston, the second night it ever played anywhere. And I saw Joel [Grey] do that. I wanted to bring my own kind of thing to it, and literally when we started that episode, no one knew what anyone was going to do. That whole business of running around, and jumping, the whole sort of sense of pantomime. Just right there on the spur of the moment, those things were designed and created and and that was fun and was great. I mean it was improvisation, using the script.

Ed Wood

I read the script. I was Tim's first and only choice, which is interesting. We met and we talked, and we got along very well. Tim Burton I'm talking about. I read the script and I said where do I begin. We have to do a make-up that looks like him, but I don't want it to be too much. I don't want to be in a mask or anything like that. So Rick Baker, we worked out a make up where we changed my nose, we got rid of my upper lip, a cleft in the chin and big ears and that's about it. It's uncanny. I watched 25 Lugosi movies while I was shooting Intersection. Whenever I had time, I would watch a Lugosi movie. I watched 7 of his interviews that he gave over the years, from 1931 till like the year he died, when he was let out of a sanatorium for using morphine. He was an alcoholic for 20 years, a morphine addict for 20 years. I got my Hungarian accent down and started becoming him, in a certain sense. I had to learn his face. Once I put the make-up on my face, my face is more expressive than his, he had less muscles working. So I learned so that it became organic. I didn't have to think about it. Having his eyes, and his mouth curled up. They got rid of my teeth, so that when he smiled it was like a black hole; you never saw his teeth, with me it's like a piano.

Tim would send me the dailies every day on the set, so I could watch them and pay attention to certain things. My problem, so I didn't have to encumber everybody else with them. And by the third or fourth week I could have tap danced or juggled as Lugosi. With Tim, though everything is rooted in truth, it's stylized on top of that, so there's an extra dimension. It's not quite real, because of Tim's texture. So you have to find those things and Johnny Depp and I ... I was with Johnny yesterday here, he's in town. So we became very good friends. I really don't even think of it as an age difference, he's a good kid, very talented and we get along great. So that was a joyful experience, very creative, very explorational. It may be one of the best things I've ever done, we'll wait and see, but I am very happy about the experience, and that's everything to me. Because Tim is so inventive and creative, and Johnny's terrific, and my daughters in the film, and she got the role without my help. She did it a test and Tim saw it, not knowing it was my daughter. So the 3 female leads of the film was Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette and Juliet Landau. So we got a chance to work together for the first time. My young 23 year old daughter. So I'm very pleased about that. That whole experience was great.


If you're doing television, it's there and it's there in no time. And that's good, so you could do things that are pertinent, things that are immediate and get them out there. It's almost like it's as close to a newspaper, the difference between a magazine and a newspaper or a book. And you know a book takes a year or more. The advantage of television is that you can see something that's happening in the world. I mean, documentaries, something's happening, boom bang bing, it's there and that's exciting to me. I've never turned my back on television. A lot of actors who do film say.. (holds hand to push away) television. No. The cable movies that are made in the states today are the movies that big studios won't make now. I mean they don't have any car crashes and explosions and chases. I like all of it. I like the fact that the French like all of it. There's less snobbery here in that respect. I do films, I do theatre, I do television. I always have and I always will.

It starts with the Barry Levinson's and [Stephen] Bochco's. You need a guiding force, you need someone with a lot of energy, who's talented and creative. It gets down to the individual. The networks don't know. Now what you need, Bochco has a lot of brightness, talent, intelligence, conceptual... as does Barry. Bruce Geller chose to follow Rod Serling. It gets down to those guys; it's not up to television, it's up to the creators. And those guys have a hard time, because of their own sensibilities in dealing with the networks and the people behind those desks, who stamp out and look at the numbers, how much a 20 second commercial earns, and the demographics, and how many people between 18 and 24 watch this show. And how many people between 24 and 35 watch this show and how many people from 35 to 50 watch this show. And we want the audience to be this, and even if the show's getting numbers of the upper... we want the youth in this. They'll cancel the show in 10 weeks, in 6 weeks today if the numbers aren't there. So it's very hard. You need a Bochco, you need a special person who wants to do television. Levinson has a very good career in motion pictures, but he's also aware of the power of television, and the fact that it reaches many more people worldwide very quickly. I'm in the film right now in the states with Richard Gere and Sharon Stone called Intersection. I started a year ago in Vancouver. It opened in January in the states, it will come here in May. That's a long time. So if you're writing anything topical or timely, it's a year later, that's not topical or timely necessarily any more, if you're doing a film. It was just a matter of time for people and it's a new generation too.

Space: 1999

The Trekkies were so entrenched, it was almost like nationalism. It's England and France, there's a channel, but you think it's an ocean between the two people historically over the years. Poland and Russia. You do something new and and they at that point were fanatical about Star Trek. They thought we were upstarts, intruders. It didn't surprise me. You know, when I saw Charlie's Angels, one could say that it was Mission Impossible with a lot of girls. Or The A Team. I mean you could say, hey, you know, maybe they borrowed something from us, but, hey, we borrowed from other things. We never really imitated Star Trek until Freddie Freiberger came along, who had produced Star Trek. Some of the concepts of that the Trekkies didn't like were, by design, the creation, or recreation, of Freddie Freiberger, who actually worked on the third season of Star Trek. Which was probably the least imaginative, so we inherited something.

The show, I think we tried. It's hard to do a science fiction series with good effects, and quality, on a weekly basis, and sustain a level of excellence. And some of the shows were were excellent, and some were okay, and some were not so good. That's what it is. It's not surprising, but now the younger kids are not making the separation between the two. They like Star Trek, they like Space. It's just often a question of time. Some time went by, and I felt - this is two years before Star Wars, and there was no science fiction, virtually - I just felt that was going to be the next thing. And I also felt that it was a great platform for saying things. Even though Star Trek at that point had been a failure. And it still wasn't, in syndication, coming alive yet. Because we're talking in the early 70s, it was a couple years later that the whole kind of phenomenon started with Star Trek in America. It may have been more popular here than there, at the time.

Some of the Space 1999s are very politically grounded in terms of ... two planets, you know, with problems ... some of the things going on in the world were reflected in that, in a very subtle way, at the time. You couldn't do that in The Streets of San Francisco. I mean there are limitations. I just thought it was time, I thought it was the next thing. So that kind of stuff, you know, and it is this sort of coagulated. Abe Mandell of ITC. I flew to London to talk to Lew Grade. Gerry Anderson and I got together, and the whole thing sort of just...

Working in England

We just picked up with our children, and moved to England. We said let's do this, it's exciting. It was good to get the kids away from the Beverly Hills school system, in a certain kind of insular thinking, and get them out in the world a little bit, which I've always feel is very good for children. So they went to English schools and we get a live in London for several years, and it was a good could change, creatively, personally, in every way. [Landau's children went to the American School in London (ASL), so only an English school in the literal sense of being in England]

The only difference is in Hollywood one would finish the day's work, no matter how long it took. If it took 18 hours, you worked 18 hours. I mean there was a page count and you finished it. In England at 6:20 someone pulls the plug. Now, if you're in the middle of a scene, they take the quarter, which means 15 minutes to finish that piece. If you don't finish it, they pull the plug and the lights go out. A more leisurely pace. If they wanted to work overtime, a couple of hours, they would ask me a week in advance. In Hollywood they asked me 2 minutes before hand, but they don't even ask me, they tell me. So there is a difference.

And then of course there's teatime twice a day. The first time that happened, I was in the middle of a scene and suddenly I looked around and everyone was gone. And I said something I said? And a little lady came in with the tea trolley. [In old British lady voice] "Hello, tea time". Everyone stopped for 20 minutes and we had tea. I said well, okay. And then again at 3:30 in the afternoon that happened. I said why don't we just get a tea urn, and a coffee urn, and people can get it when they want to. We don't have to stop. [British man's voice] "Oh no, it's not traditional" That's a tradition there. In America we have a craft service table with tea and coffee and all kinds, anytime you want you get it, you don't have to stop work. So I tried. But we did work a 5 day week, which I insisted on before we started, contractually. They wanted to make it 6 days and I said no. In a film series, the crew, the cast, need 2 days to recover at the end of each week. Saturday is a day when you're still a little wound up. Sunday as a day where you can relax and start the new week. So we were the first show in the history of England to work 5 days as opposed to 6 days. And that was at Barbara and my insistence. [UK film crews worked 5 day weeks. Landau may have worked longer weeks in the US, but a 6 day week would have been exceptional for UK filming.]

Puppets and second series

I told him there were no strings attached. I think the puppets were a little more controllable than we were. I don't think their performances were quite as good as ours. [Jerks head to side] They're just a little stiff. We talked back, they just sort of hung there at night. We got along very well actually. Sylvia was there the first year; I loved her, she was great. A great kind of energy. And then of course, they split. The second season of Space she was no longer there. I missed her a lot.

An American producer came in, and I felt the show diminished the second season. I just felt that the concept could have grown from that first year, become very interesting. We will be giving to find our.... But the American ITC began to think more commercially. The Star Trek phenomenon started, so the Metamorph, those kinds of things started. I felt the corrupted the show. I never like the second year nearly as much as the first year. I felt, the first year, the whole essence of the show was a bunch of people who didn't belong in deep space. They weren't equipped to be there. Emotionally, physically, technologically, it was a mistake. Star Trek, they go out there to do it. Our technology looks very much like stuff that's being built today. I mean it's not the Enterprise. And we were thrust by a nuclear accident into deep space. And the whole idea is that there are 300 people trying to survive. We can't really procreate because the base can't handle more than 300 people. So the whole idea was to find a planet compatible with our needs, in essence. And we also have no control over a trajectory, so we're the mercy of whatever, heading into places no one has ever gone before, but not by choice. And I love that concept and I think, you know, it also said that don't use the moon as a garbage dump, don't use the Earth as a garbage dump.

We got away from that the second year; it became more of a comic strip. I would argue with people. I would say he can't do that, Koenig can't do that. He said "why?" I said because he wouldn't make a pre-emptive strike, it's not his philosophy. "No one will know" What do you mean, no one will know? I said people watch the show. He said "they won't remember". I said, what do you mean, from last week they won't remember? I used to fight like a tiger. I'd be at that studio after a day's work, sitting with Charles Crichton and the story editors, fighting for the life of John Koenig. Saying he can't do that, he won't do that, he shouldn't do that. I lost some of those battles.

In the first season there were BBC writers who had never worked in commercial television. [The only two BBC writers were David Weir and Johnny Byrne. Penfold and all the others worked primarily for ITV or US series] So the first act was 25 minutes long. You'd say, wait a minute, you can have an ad break here. You have to build to that. It's a 4 act play. You can't just stop in mid sentence, you've got to have some some kind of white knuckles, It wasn't easy. I guess maybe I was a bit of pain in the neck sometimes, but I was always fighting for quality. Whether Gerry appreciated my efforts, or thought I was a pain in the neck, I don't know. I'm always concerned with quality, not selfishly either. I'm very generous. You talk to Peter Lupus. I was always trying to hand him lines on Mission Impossible. He's still one of my very dear friends, because he was monosyllabic. He'd say "oh", "okay", "right". So I'd say why don't you give this to Peter. Little by little he got more and more to say.

I can only say that we tried to make that show as good as possible. And Brian Johnson's special effects, and the thing I like about the show too is that when you projected on a big screen, it looks better, not worse. Many things like that, when projected, you begin to see the cracks in the walls, if you know what I mean. That that show had a technical quality. We had very good directors. Lee Katzin did 2 of them, from the states. As I said David Tomlin, and Charles Crichton, and Ray Austin, who did lot of the Avengers shows, and is working as a director of the states now. We tried to keep the integrity up. And even the second season, when I didn't agree with the changes, and I fought with Freddie Freiberger often. I'd say I don't understand it, if I don't understand, who's going to understand it?


In life there are no 2 people alike. I've never met 2 people who are exactly alike. Therefore when anyone ever plays a character, I think that one has to relate to the distinctive and specific things that make people different. If something interests me, it usually comes off the page and sort of grabs me. I say I could have some fun with this. You know someday I'll write a book called "acting can be fun" because too many people think of it as something austere. I enjoy it, I really have a good time, and the more complicated character is, even on the page, the better I am, actually. If it has layers I'm thrilled. What doesn't interest me, I'll speak in the reverse, are things that are mindless and one dimensional. I've done those too, because if you complicate them too much, they become self conscious and out of context. But when I read, for instance, the role in Tucker, the movie I did with Coppola, it excited me, my heart beat faster. What I saw the whole arc of the character, I saw stuff in there that you could chew on. As I say, I think each particular piece has its own problems, its own layers and levels, and its own specialness. So that whenever I accept a role, I kind of attack it as if it were the best thing ever written, which often it isn't. But the more I can bring to it, I think the more interesting it is for me, and if it interests me, I think it interests an audience.

Emotional Koenig

Yes, he's in charge, but John Koenig does have break downs, and has emotional out-pours. When he's in command and control, yes, you know you don't see too many presidents of nations falling down crying in front of the nation. He had to make decisions. There's a lot of seat of the pants thinking. He needed those 300 people on the base to feel he was in fact in control of something that is almost uncontrollable. So he had to create, just for the well being of his people, a sense of authority and a sense of somewhat stoic behaviour. But on individual episodes, they lock him up. He's desperate at times, and people forget that, those moments where the whole base turns against him, for reasons that their minds have been infected by other planets. They want to do something that he feels is not wise, and there were times he becomes quite desperate and quite emotional. If you look at individual episodes, there a couple of times he's absolutely in 22 pieces, and needs to glue himself back together again. The 2 part episode Bringers Of Wonder, he's the only one on the base who sees them for what they are, because he was in a different state when they captured everyone's minds. They all think he's insane, that he's lost it. So he's running around like a chicken without a head throughout that entire episode, so you can't say that he's unemotional. He wants to be, and loses it. Captain Kirk never expressed half the emotion that Koenig did in those episodes. If you put episodes of one against the other, when Kirk is most distraught, and Koenig is most distraught, Koenig is much more emotional. So that's a misconception.

The whole idea of someone who's commander... The Americans want to see Bill Clinton in charge, they don't want to see a man who's loose, who's coming apart. That's always very dangerous. Hitler, he started to unravel at the end, because he was making decisions that make any sense. His own generals tried to kill him at one point, because he's losing it. Don't go after Russia, Napoleon tried, it doesn't work in the winter. I think Koenig was very emotional but tried to keep it in control, and often wasn't able to.


Hey, there were good actors and bad actors. There are no 2 people who work the same way. And it's not important that they do. You can learn some things one way and another person learns them another way. You either have learned them or you haven't learned them. There is something also that's vaporous, called talent. That's an important part of it. All the training in the world can't give you that. It could teach you to use your talent to help you, refine it and define it. But if you're a kangaroo, you'll never play a camel. Strasberg, who was my mentor, and encouraged me to teach, which he didn't do with a lot of people. I was one of his proteges, if you will. Of. Basically what it is, is the actor's ability to respond to imaginary stimulus, and having an instrument. I was thinking of a body as an instrument, a good musician can sit down with an ensemble and play, if he's good, any piece of music. Interpret it. Conductor, director, writer. And play it. And what basically the method is, is a system. Stanislavski never even use the word "method", he used the word "system". It's become synonymous with the certain kind of organic acting, with the Pacino's, De Niro's, Marlon, Jimmy Dean's. It's basically learning to get what's inside, outside, when you want it. And also learning to put the covers on that emotion that defines character. To reveal emotion is not to act. My aunt Sadie could do that. She cried at basketball games. How does that person represses his feelings? How does that person distil his feelings, as opposed to the other person. One first has to find the emotion. And that comes from everything.

I mean if Tennessee Williams says it's 110 degrees in the shade. One is playing in Streetcar Named Desire. Or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The perspiration, the smells of the body, the stickiness, the sensuality, has to be there. You're playing in an air conditioned theatre. It's comfortable. But the play doesn't work unless the actor can bring that element to it. That comes from something else. Without it, plays don't work. So I need to visceral part of that, I mean looking at a woman and smelling her body, and touching her, she's moist. All of that stuff is what the method's about. You need to exercise that part of you. When the telephone rings and there's no voice on the other end. [mimes a telephone] "Hello yeah. Yeah." [laughs] "Yeah, they're here. I'll tell what, I'll call you back in about 10 minutes. No, no. I am in the middle of an interview. Yeah. I'll tell them. Okay. I can't do that now. 1 o'clock." The point is, you have to believe you're talking to somebody. That person may be telling you that your entire family was just in an automobile accident and they're in the hospital. Well, there's some work to be done. All the audience wants to believe at any given time is what's going on is happening for the first time. If I tell you what you a joke and you laugh. This is funny. So that's terrific, except we were out of focus. Now let's do it again. Now I have to tell you the joke, and you know the punch line, and it's not so funny the second time. How do you do it? How do you laugh at the same joke ten times in a row, as if you were hearing it for the first time. If you could do that, you can act.

It allows me to examine things that I wouldn't have been conscious of before, and then when I make a choice, to accept it. So that my being, my body, my senses, my everything, responds. To something that isn't there, really. And how do I believe in things that are on the page? Things that are written down. To believe in them, often in a life and death way. You do Eugene O'Neill in the theatre. You live more in the one evening than most people do in 10 years, in terms of the kinds of things that one has to go through. The passion, the energy, the pain, the frustration, the anguish, the anger. How do you do it? You're playing on an instrument. Now the audience has the same equipment. And the beauty of it all is, if you are ringing true, you have a thousand people in the theatre, they're all feeling the same thing at the same time, and experiencing it in an interesting way. Because they're somewhat safe, it's not really happening to them, so they allow. Because in life most people repress their feelings. So, get 10 people in your living room, it's very hard to get them all to agree on anything. To get a thousand people to all experience the same thing, at the same moment, is a miracle. That's what is exciting. That's why important works in the theatre, and film, can affect people. And change things, if it affects them organically and viscerally. And that's what's exciting.

Origins of Mission Impossible

The acting class I talked about before, with Nicholson, and Harry Dean Stanton, and Shirley Knight, and Robert Blake, and Warren Oates, they're all my students. One of those students was Bruce Geller, who's a young writer who want to learn about acting. And I insisted that he function in the class as an actor. When he came into the class, over that period he got to know me very well. He was listen to my discourses or whatever, he would see me pop from character to character. Suddenly turning into [accented voice] "some crazy kind of guy like this, you know" [Russian voice] "The Russian people, very serious". So I would just do stuff, and when he wrote Rollin Hand, it was originally called Martin Land. And I said that can't be, it's too close, you better make a separation between me and the character. So we called him Martin Hand, and I said no, no, no. The Martin has to go. So he turned him into Rollin Hand. It was before word processors, and he didn't want to retype the whole script, so Martin Land became Rollin Hand. He had me in mind for that, because he originally wrote it as a motion picture. And he couldn't sell it. He thought of it as Rififi [Du rififi chez les hommes], the French film. We were all bad guys in the original, we were not on the side of the angels, we were on the other side. The original motion picture consisted of a bunch of specialists who were up to no good. He couldn't get it done as a film. One of the people he took it to was Lucille Ball, who's running Desliu studios at the time. Lucy read the script, and her people there said, this is very good, let's do it as a TV series. Bruce nearly fainted because it took him 6 months to do that script. He said how can we do this every week?

Bruce called me, and he said "I don't know want to do". I said "say yes". I said when Carl Reiner started the Dick Van Dyke show, he had to write almost every episode the first year. He didn't think he could, but he did, before he got other writers like Garry Marshall and Persky and Denoff and other people. I said it's gonna work out. Sure you can do it. He said I don't know how. I said "do it". And literally we had that conversation.

And I was only going to appear in the first episode as a guest, because my motion picture career was moving. I didn't want to television. I'd been offered a number of other series, which I turned out. Anyway I did the pilot, and Barbara, my ex wife, was cast as Cinnamon. She had to go through a process. Lucille Ball made the final decision, and loved her. And they got along very well. She saw in her, I guess, some of the the old Hollywood. It all came together.

My arrangement, I could leave the series, the first year, at any time with 2 weeks notice. But I was having such a good time, I stayed. The first year I did 26 of the 28 shows. And the billing was a little different, because I insisted they not put me into the main titles, because then they'd be stuck with that. So we worked out the way it's a special appearance by Martin Landau as Rollin Hand, that way if I did leave I wouldn't disrupt anything too much. The actual expression "special appearance by Martin Landau" had never been used before. Now you see it a lot. I, literally with my agent, invented that. That actual wording had never appeared in any film or television show before. It's common now. But we invented that, "special appearance by Martin Landau" as opposed to "starring" in the main titles. The second year, I said yes, I'll do the entire season, and I became part of the main titles, but there's a lot of history there.

Vintage television

Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. If I have an hour, here and there, and I see one of those, there's something relaxing, something always quirky and interesting about it, and involving, in a way that I like to be stimulated. If I see a Twilight Zone I haven't seen in years, or have seen, or not seen, because I haven't seen all of them... I thought Rod brought a particular kind of thing to television, it was very special. And Stefano, some of those old Outer Limits with fun. I like the Untouchables. I like a number of things. If I see a Man From Uncle that may be on the air, which doesn't play in the states very much, in fact hasn't it years and years. I remember getting hooked on one day. That was fanciful and different. Some of the old American dramas too, which once in awhile surface. An old Playhouse 90, a show that will do some of the old classics from the golden age of television. A lot of actors I know, when they were very young, Paul Newman and Jack Palance, I'm interested in seeing the evolution of those people too. I look at things a little differently too. I'm just seen a young Paul Newman do something on an old Philco Playhouse. A very young actor. And see the evolution of Paul. Paul is president of the Actor's Studio, I know Paul very well.