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Martin Landau reminisces on a long, illustrious career

  • FeldmanReview
Martin Landau is one of Hollywood most revered actors who, at 87, is still doing a remarkable job.
by PETER FELDMAN | Mar 09, 2016

He says acting is a career that, unlike dancers and opera singers, can continue for many years and he once again proves his point in his new thriller, Atom Egoyan's "Remember", in which he stars opposite Christopher Plummer.

He plays a mysterious man who sends the 90-year-old resident of an old age home (played by Plummer) on a mission to find and kill the Nazi officer responsible for the death of their families in a concentration camp.

The film, which opens on March 18, is a compelling story.

In a telephone interview, Landau told me that what attracted him to the script was the chance to work with director Atom Egoyan and also that the story was different. Ten years ago it would have been difficult to make a movie of this nature, he feels, because of the sensitivity of the subject matter at the time.

Talking about the film, he said it was important to observe the various little clues that were being presented in order to discover the bad guy and he felt audiences should see it more than once to gain the full impact of what the story was telling them. Who was the bad guy and how would he be revealed, that was the mystery and the thriller element.

He also spoke about the film serving as a history lesson for a generation of people who were forgetting the past, and which he believed should be kept alive.

At his ripe age, Landau is still active in an industry that has brought him great joy. With countless films and TV series under his belt, he finds it difficult to name his favourite, though winning an Oscar for his role as Bela Logosi in “Ed Wood", was a highlight.

Today he still finds time to make movies - his next one is called The Last Poker Game and is set in an old age home where he acts opposite Paul Sorvino - and he applauds the fact that there are still roles for older actors.

He is critical of today's Hollywood and feels most of the films coming out are "comic strips" aimed at teenage audiences where there is no character development but plenty of explosives and action.

He spoke lovingly about his role as artistic director of the Actors Studio in Hollywood training young actors. He was one of 2 000 applicants who auditioned for Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio in 1955 - only he and Steve McQueen were accepted. Landau was a friend of James Dean and McQueen.

Asked what made a good actor, he said they must be "unpredictable" and tackle things that you wouldn't expect.

Landau was only 17 when he was hired by the New York Daily News as a staff cartoonist and illustrator. His major ambition, however, was to act, and in 1951, he made his stage debut in "Detective Story" in Maine. He made his off-Broadway debut that same year in "First Love" and has never looked back.

He joked that although he was "still perpendicular" he didn't get to travel much and would like to have visited South Africa, when I broached the subject of coming one day to our part of the world.

Asked about today's younger generation, Landau commented on how the technological age had taken over their lives, that there was a distinct lack of face-to-face communication and he once attended a family dinner where children were texting each other from different rooms.

Listening to Landau's unflagging enthusiasm for life and work, makes one hopeful that he will still have much to contribute to a film industry he so dearly loves.

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