Remembering Martin Landau

Jul 18, 2017

Martin Landau died on Saturday.  The actor, who won an Oscar for his role in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, was 89.  Landau's career spanned almost seven decades and included credits ranging from TV’s Mission Impossible to Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

He only ever acted once in Milwaukee, in the 1950s, in a touring production of Patty Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night. But in 2009, he was an honored guest at the Milwaukee Film Festival and delivered a keynote address at the Oriental Theater. We spoke with him during that visit and he talked about his professional life, which began - interestingly enough - as a newspaper cartoonist.

“I worked for the New York Daily News as a kid and I was being groomed to be the theatrical caricaturist… but I knew if I took that job I would never leave so I quit because I knew I did want to act,” Landau said.    

Landau also spoke about acting: “What a character says to another character is what he’s wishing to reveal or share with another character. The 90% he isn’t willing to is what I do for a living.”;

About being asked by Tim Burton to take on the role of Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood: "I said I'm not sure I can do it. I said 'You've written a 74 year old Hungarian morphine addict alcoholic who has mood swings. Which is interesting and hard enough, but he has to be Bela Lugosi? Give me a break!'";

And about aging: “The ever changing guy up there, 'Who’s that old fart? That’s me! Holy God! What happened to that dark haired guy who jumped around?' You know when you pass a store window and you’re like 'Oh God, there’s a lot of glass around...'"

RIP, Mr. Landau. You were a mensch.