Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 15, 1994 · Page 19
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Albuquerque Journal from Albuquerque, New Mexico · Page 19

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 15, 1994
Page 19
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ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL Saturday, October 15, 1991. D5 Into Lugosi Role S leetJ ctor SupplledByA ami N s , , s . ' S. K K. K . , . H , V, K ?, ' s hi k r !. hi S . a. ' 'Ed Wood' Revives Landau's Career By Douglas J. Rowe THE ASSOCIATED PRESS . NEW YORK Martin Landau's film career auspiciously began with Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," then it headed south. These days, though, the compass needle on "S" stands for success. He received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor as the business manager in Francis Ford Coppola's 1988 movie "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" and again the next year as the adulterous (and murderous) ophthalmologist in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors." . , : , Now his Bela Lugosi portrayal in director Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" has critics gushing that he'll get his third Oscar nod in seven years. For a decade starting in tlje 1970s, however, Landau went from 6ne bad role to another in such forgettable flicks as "Black Gunn," "A Town Called Hell" and "Meteor." It could have been worse, i j "I was acting," he said. " J wasn't driving a taxi cab or waiting on tables, which people do, gladly. No. I was playing mindless, one-dimensional villains in stupid movies." Those heavies simply couldn't be depicted as human beings with complexities, he said. Landau fondly recalls one textured bad giiy he got to play: the gaunt, icy Leonard in "North by Northwest." ' "Yeah, that was an interesting guy. ... Here's the contained, economical deadly homosexual character. The homosexual was my idea," IT : J '" ' "s "if "s I f Mfk -I IK ifit I g7 Johnny Depp and Martin Landau work on their vampire technique In a scene from "Ed Wood." he said. ... , . A daring move, certainly in 1958 for a young actor who's heterosexual, but Landai said the henchman's . jealousy of Eva Marie Saint, who portrayed the evil James Mason's mistress, added to Leonard's dan-gerousness. Leonard eventually plummeted off Mount Rushmore, and Landau's film career looked like it might take off, with roles in such films as the big-budget "Cleopatra." Instead, his movie career languished. During that time, he said, "I never did anything that embarrassed me, really embarrassed me. ... But there's a lot of stuff I would like to turn into guitar picks." '. The 6-foot-2, sixtysomething New York-born actor probably is best remembered as the disguise expert, Rollin Hand, in the 1960s TV series "Mission: Impossible." Those protean proclivities carry over into a chameleonlike quality in real life, he said. - "My outline isn't that clear. What I mean and these are wonderful actors I'm going to talk about but ... Joe Pesci maybe the hair will change a little, but the outline's clear. Danny Aiello; Harrison Ford clear. "Young directors who typecast would not think of me quickly. It takes a Hitchcock, it takes a Woody, it takes a Coppola, it takes a Tim to know what I am, to trust themselves enough to say, 'This guy's very talented, he's going to come up with something.'" Burton offered Landau the Lugpsi role because he thought the actor -would understand "on a very deep level" the man who everyone knows as the definitive Dracula. Burton, who directed "Batman," "Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissor-shands," told Landau: "Your career's been a roller coaster. You've been down on your luck, like he has been. You've made comebacks. ... You did tacky television; you've done horror movies. All of that." Landau said he could empathize with Lugosi, whose sad last years consisted of feeding his drug and alcohol addiction and playing incoherent parts in movies by Edward D. Wood Jr., acknowledged as the worst Hollywood director of all time. Landau researched the role by watching about 25 old Lugosi. movies and studying the Hungarian accent, which he characterized as hard to acquire and hard to lose. The heavy accent contributed to Lugosi's downfall as an actor. He also drove around to Lugosi's various residences, seeing the , descent of a once great star who wound up in a seedy hovel. "I began to respect this guy and pity him. I saw the humor in him. This for me became a love letter to him, and almost an homage to him, because he never got a chance to get out of that," Landau said. . "I got a chance to make a comeback in my career. And I'm giving him one. I'm giving him the last role he never got." The biggest challenge, Landau said, may have been assiduously avoiding even the tiniest hint of caricature in playing Lugosi "so I wouldn't be laughed off the face of the Earth." I CHOICE S Amoena Breast Forms After breast surgery... 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