Exclusive: Juliet Landau Talks the Future of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tim Burton, The Terror, and More!
Last week we brought you exclusive word that co-director Juliet Landau’s exhaustive vampire documentary A Place Among the Undead has evolved into a full-fledged series, and today we bring you the rest of our interview, in which we chat about the future of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” her experience working with director Tim Burton on the set of Ed Wood, and more.
Landau, who is best known to genre fans for her turn as the deranged, yet enigmatic vampire Drusilla in Joss Whedon’s iconic “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” series (as well as for her portrayal of Loretta King in Tim Burton’s celebrated 1994 feature Ed Wood), said of the latter, “Vickie Thomas, who cast me in my first job ever, brought me in [for Ed Wood]. I was actually cast before my father [Martin Landau] was in the movie. I recall that I was shooting another film at the time and had been working all night, and I think I was slightly delirious when Vickie taped my audition.”
After receiving a call back, Landau was prepared to read again, but as she remembers, “Tim [Burton] told me he loved my audition tape and said he just wanted to chat. We talked for over an hour, and we discussed the role/film a tiny bit, but it really was just this amazing, stream-of-consciousness, free-flowing conversation. I felt an immediate affinity and connection with Tim. As for the film, I’d read Rudolph Grey’s book Nightmare of Ecstasy, which the screenplay was largely based on, but I don’t think we discussed it at that time. The minute I read the role of Loretta, I knew I had to play her and felt that I would. The script had an inherent sweetness in it. It was a love letter to filmmaking and creativity.”
As for her working relationship with the director, “I loved working with Tim and with Johnny [Depp],” said Landau. “Tim created the best atmosphere: an extremely fun, open, but focused environment where everyone was excited and inspired to bring their ‘A’ game. I felt incredibly free to try things and to discuss ideas with Tim. I am now a bit in awe of my younger self and the things I voiced. For instance, there was a beat in the bar scene with Johnny where Tim asked me to smile. I wanted to save the smile for the end because I saw Loretta as very similar to Johnny’s character of Ed. I saw it as my mission to sweetly out-con the sweet con man. I knew what Tim was going for. He needed a delineation, a response in the beat that was transpiring, so I asked if I could try something else. I tried it in the next take, and Tim started to bounce. He was very cute because when he liked a take, he would bop up and down with this joyous, ebullient energy. When we interviewed Tim recently for A Place Among the Undead, we reminisced a lot. Ed Wood was a very special and personal film for him, and it was for me as well.”
Concerning the long speculated reboot/redux/reimaging of Joss Whedon’s cult hit television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” we asked Juliet if that were to come to fruition, whether or not it would be something she’d be interested in participating in.
“I would love to, assuming Joss was helming it,” she answered, “but the thing with playing a vampire is vampires never age, so if I was going to play Dru, I’d better do it quick and with great lighting!” (Writer’s Note: Landau doesn’t appear to have aged a day since stalking Sunnydale).
Of the “BtVS” universe, Landau assisted in expanding it from screen to print by co-writing (with Brian Lynch) in 2009 Issues #24 & #25 of the IDW comic series Angel: After the Fall, in which Drusilla has a two-issue arc.
“I had a wonderful time working with Brian,” offered Landau of the experience. “It was surprising how easily I slipped back into Dru’s skin. I guess when you inhabit a character over the course of six seasons, you really get immersed in her logic, or with Dru… her illogic. I got the call from IDW while I was in the edit bay, and by the end of the edit session, the story had come to me. I went home, wrote it in script form, and sent it in. Once it was approved, Brian and I worked together via email, and it was a lot of fun! I designed the alternate covers, and I think I pulled something like 1,500 reference images for the interior pages. My husband, Dev, and I found them and labeled them for each panel.”
Adding to her historic hats of actor, director, writer, and producer, Landau has also worked extensively in the world of voice-over, lending her vocal talents to both animated television series (“Justice League”) and video games (Final Fantasy, Bioshock), among others.
“I love doing voice-over,” she effused. “For a lot of the animation I have recorded, you work with the other actors and really get to play. I can pretty much do every accent under the sun, but voice acting expands the roles you can play even further because you can inhabit roles that you would never be cast for physically. Also, you don’t have to primp… no make-up, no hair, no wardrobe, which can be liberating and great.”
As for feature work, Landau shot a cameo in FX maven and director Todd Tucker’s recently wrapped The Terror, which revolves around a fifteen-year-old boy who, after being brutally beaten up by high school bullies, unknowingly unleashes the “Terror of Halloween” upon them.
Of the shoot, Landau said, “A few years ago Todd directed me in the adorable kid’s movie Monster Mutt, in which I played the blonde, Russian baddie. I slinked around in black catsuits and did nefarious deeds. He is a wonderful director. He asked me to play the cameo role of Nurse Pryce in The Terror, and I was in! I also hooked him up with Christian Kane and Eric Roberts, who also appear. Todd’s company, Illusion Industries, built all the effects; and they are imaginative and brilliant.” (Writer’s Note: I recently had a chance to tour the sets of The Terror with director Tucker and can attest to this; more to come on that in the months ahead).
“Buffy” fans, take note: Juliet will serve as the Guest of Honor this May 13-15 at Whedonopolis 2016, a charitable and jam-packed convention organized by Whedonverse, to be held at Airtel Plaza Hotel (7277 Valjean Ave., Van Nuys, CA) in the Los Angeles area.