Martin Landau on Working with Woody Allen and the Trouble with Writers: “They have all the characters speaking the same way”

Veteran actor Martin Landau, who voices a character in the new Frankenweenie, has some things to say about Woody Allen’s directing.

“Woody doesn’t direct at all,” he told The Orange County Register.  “Seriously, he says that all the time.  He doesn’t know how to direct.  He says he hires you to do your job, and then he fires you if you can’t.  On Purple Roses of Cairo, he started with Michael Keaton, who worked for three weeks, and then he let him go.  He couldn’t use any of it.  Then Eric Roberts came in, and worked for 10 days, and then Woody let him go, too.  A third actor came in, but I can’t remember who that was.  And, finally, he got Jeff Daniels.”

“I had a different brother in Crimes and Misdemeanors for the first three days.  Woody knows what he wants, but he doesn’t direct.  He lets you completely on your own.  He doesn’t want to talk about the movie.  He’ll talk about the Knicks, about hockey, about anything.  If the circus is in town, he’ll tell you how much he hates clowns.  Anything to not talk about directing.”

After decades in the business (and an Oscar for Ed Wood), Landau knows how to approach a new character. “I’ve never met two people who were exactly the same, so I look at the character’s physiology, like where he comes from and what he sounds like,” he said.  “For instance, where I grew up in Brooklyn, all the Irish guys sounded like this [slips into thick Irish accent.]  The Italians were different [with Italian accent.]  The trouble with characters today is the writers.  They have all the characters speaking the same way.  The way a character sounds is so important to how you’re going to play him.”

Frankenweenie is in theaters now.

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