The Catacombs Catacombs Reference Library
Martin Landau


Bikini magazine (USA, May 1997, p36)

From Space 1999 and Mission: Impossible to Crimes & Misdemeanors and Ed Wood, MARTIN LANDAU has long been a commanding presence on both small and large screens. Now the star of the upcoming Robert Townsend film B.A.P.s tells PAUL SEMEL what it takes to be an actor.

Bikini: What's the difference between a great actor and a waiter?

Landau: Some great actors started as waiters, Several are still waiters. Being a waiter, doesn't necessarily mean one is not a great actor. And being a waiter doesn't necessarily hurt being an actor. I think it helps. One of the great things about growing up where I grew up, which was in the streets of Brooklyn, was coming into contact with all kinds of people from all walks of life. I used to sit in a sub- way and look at the people and imagine where they came from, where they were going, where they lived. I think all of that helped me, and helps me still, in playing all kinds of people.

B If what you do comes from observation and living life, how do you portray a character for which you cannot look to example? In Space 1999, you were the commander of the moon as it was hurtling through space; in Mission: Impossible you were a spy. How do you work on a character when that happens?

Landau: That's Acting 101. Is this guy and where is he coming from? Where did he grow up? I saw my character on Mission: Impossible as being flamboyant to some degree, a little theatrical. Yet, unlike a lot of action adventure shows, a guy who also gets frightened. I never dismissed that. Obviously you have five people in the impossible missions force who are going to win at the end of the show, and the poor villain is going to get it. But you've got to create a degree of jeopardy as well. Unlike some actors in action films, you never see the cracks, and I think you have to see the cracks.

B: Do you ever stop learning?

Landau: Basically, the more you live, the more you have on your palette as an actor. It's like going to Aaron Brothers (an art supply store) and buying several colors you've never used before, if you're a painter. And you say, "My God, they didn't have these a year ago."

B: Typecasting happens to a lot of actors, but it seems harder on people in science fiction. How did you avoid it?

Landau: It did happen to me. First Of all, I lived in England for almost four years while I was doing Space 1999. And being away from Hollywood for four years, there were new people behind desks; there were casting directors who were interns when you left. You know, out of sight out of mind. I came back and I wasn't on anybody's list for anything. But you're happy to be typecast at that point because you're not working at all. The first trick is to keep working. The second trick is not to let them stick you in a cubicle and play that same part. To me, that would kill me, to play that same part forever. I was offered Spock before Lenny (Leonard Nimoy), and I did Mission instead. In the '60s, playing some guy with pointed ears who had no emotion and was on top of everything— that couldn't miss if the show did well. But it's like playing a lobotomy for me. It's the antithesis of what I do. I love playing all kinds of things.

B: Has there ever been a role that you wanted but didn't get, that you were really sorry about?

Landau: Sure, but never for too long. There are roles that you want and don't get and there are roles that fall into your lap that you're surprised you get. Just recently Steven Spielberg wanted for a role in a new picture that he's doing. But the role he offered me just didn't interest me. Secretary Of State? It's principal, but it doesn't go anywhere, so I passed on it. I'd love to work with Steven but to work three months on a movie and not have very much to do just doesn't interest me,

B Are there any rituals that you have Anything you do every day or at the end of a film?

Landau: Just voodoo. I stick pins in things. No, no, no.(laughing) That I have to do? No. When I wake up, after a period of timer I urinate. I don't go for twelve, fifteen hours after I arise in the morning without visiting the bathroom. Brush my teeth. There are things that are comforting and also hygienic.

B. Do you think it's possible for someone to be happy if they have friends, but having never been in love?

Landau: Wow. When I think or being in be in love, to love, I think that many things go many people. lt's like describing a taste. If I tried to, explain what a good steak tastes like to a vegetarian who's never eaten meat, I would be very hard pressed to describe it with words. To be in love - and I have been - it's an overwhelming, indescribable, euphoric... condition. I think everyone should experience it, and I hope everyone can, and does, in his or her lifetime. But the truth of the matter is, I don't think there's a simple answer to your question. There are people who are happy who have never fallen in love, and there are people who have been in love and are now miserable because they've never found it again. I don't have a simple answer; I have a complicated one that didn't quite answer your question.