Frankenweenie Roundtable Interview with Co-Stars Winona Ryder and Martin Landau

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During the recent press day for Frankenweenie (review), Dread Central caught up with two of Tim Burton’s previous collaborators that he reunited with for his latest project- Winona Ryder and Martin Landau.

Ryder got her first big break in the industry working on Burton’s Beetlejuice starring as Lydia Deetz and reteamed with him on Edward Scissorhands in 1990; since then the Gen X actress went on to star in numerous films including Reality Bites, Mermaids, Dracula, Girl, Interrupted, A Scanner Darkly, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, Black Swan and this writers’ personal favorite- the cult classic flick Heathers.

Landau, one of the premiere actors of his or any other generation, first collaborated with Burton on the 1994 critically-acclaimed flick Ed Wood which garnered Landau a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and numerous other awards, putting the character actor back front and center in Hollywood. Throughout his career, Landau has starred in over 160 television and film projects including the generally overlooked 1982 New Line horror classic Alone in the Dark

At the roundtable interview, we heard more from Ryder and Landau about their characters in Frankenweenie, reuniting with Burton and more on their experiences working on the film. Check out the highlights of our coverage below and look for more on Disney’s latest animated project all this week!

Question: How was your experience working with Tim Burton again?

Winona Ryder: Oh, it’s always amazing. I mean, I’m trying to think of new adjectives to use because it truly is just such a special experience all every time and, and even also just being around him when just he’s one of my favorite people in the world just to be around. So it never really feels like work in that way even though it is very creative; but working with Tim is very different than other directors. Martin, you know, you had that same experience too.

Martin Landau: Tim creates a playground for the actors and it’s so much fun; even in this instance where you’re alone and you’re not working with another actor but you’re visualizing it and Tim’s there and it’s just pleasant. Now, all good directors create a playground but they’re all a little different. A good director he doesn’t direct a whole lot; he hires the right actor and then he lets them go and the ones that direct too much are usually film students who haven’t directed before (laughs).

Winona Ryder: With Tim, it feels like he’s always been someone with an incredible amount of purity even if he does happen look a certain way that may not seem like it. And I do feel that Lydia from Beetlejuice, which Elsa in this movie is sort of based a little bit on, the reason that she could see the ghosts was because she did have a purity with her obsession with death because she was not caught up in everything the way her parents were. And that’s why with little kids still today, when they come up and they say ‘are you the girl from Beetlejuice?’ it’s such a wonderful, amazing feeling for me. And being associated with Tim’s films it’s- literally like I’m- well, you can probably see it in me right now (laughs).

Related Stories: Frankenweenie News Archive

Question: Martin, do you love your character and everything he stands for?

Martin Landau: Rzykruski- yes I love Rzykruski (laughs). When I read him I loved him; if he wasn’t born in Europe I would like for him to be President of the United States because he’s so honest. And then he’d be the only honest man in Washington (laughs). So by the same token I love this character; he’s a great teacher who’s completely misunderstood but he sees in Victor himself as a child. I’m of a similar mind with Rzykruski because I think that in many areas we are ignorant of the things we should be aware of and what he’s saying basically is that he loves science, and he loves life, and he loves the human condition, and he doesn’t tolerate fools well. And I feel pretty much the same way.

Winona, can you tell us about your character in Frankenweenie, Elsa Van Helsing? How was it singing?

Winona Ryder: Oh, sure. Elsa is Victor’s neighbor and she goes to school with him too. I think they do have a sort of connection; they’re kind of kindred spirits. And for the singing, that was great fun because I got to work with Danny Elfman personally. I remember on Beetlejuice that I visited him when he was scoring the movie with a giant orchestra and that was very exciting. I’m a huge fan of his, but to actually work with him directly, that was very, very exciting. It was great too because for the song I’m singing it as a very nervous little girl who actually doesn’t want to be doing it0- she’s kind of being forced into it so I didn’t have to belt out some amazing voice (laughs).

Question: What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen in Tim after working earlier movies with him and then on this film? What changes did you have to do to prepare for the role?

Martin Landau: Change is good; we all change and Tim’s no different. And I approach each character I’ve ever played as a new person coming from a different environment- physiologically, geographically and emotionally. I’ve never had two people that were the same, the fun of this character in Frankenweenie reminded me again while I was working on it of my teachers when I was growing up; the ones that are implored me to be better at anything I tried to do- to excel. And I think that’s an important thing.

Winona Ryder: And to always be learning. That’s something I’ve always taken away from working with Tim and from working on this movie. There’s really something we can all learn from this story too- and feel something too. I was in tears; Tim’s movies always seem to have me in tears. (laughs).

The Frankenweenie voice cast includes four actors who worked with Burton on previous films: Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands), Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), Martin Short (Mars Attacks!), and Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), along with Charlie Tahan and Atticus Shaffer.

A heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.

A stop-motion animated film, ‘Frankenweenie’ will be filmed in black and white and rendered in 3D, which will elevate the classic style to a whole new experience.

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Written by Steve Barton

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