You may recall, Landau previously worked with the film’s director, Tim Burton, on Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow.
Shock also spoke with Frankenweenie‘s Charlie Tahan who plays Victor Frankenstein. Tahan’s genre roots can be traced back to the tiger-in-a-house thriller Burning Bright.
Head inside for our brief chats with both actors!
Shock Till You Drop: Tim and I were talking earlier about the value of a strong director/actor dynamic in which the two collaborate on many projects.
Martin Landau: A good director creates a playground. You get good actors and they’re allowed to play, stuff comes out that you can’t envision. With Tim, I know what he wants. When we started Ed Wood, if they say after five minutes “If Landau’s not doing a good job, we don’t have a movie…” They’ve got to believe I’m Lugosi, they don’t have a film. That was my aim. I wanted that Hungarian accent to be right and behaviorally it was different. My character in Frankenweenie is European. And when I say European, I mean, he’s not Russian, Hungarian or German, he’s European. Something generic. So I made up an accent. But I liked the character. I saw the arc and I think he’s very eccentric. A passionate character. Someone who sees something in Victor and is basically a catalyst for what happens. He teaches Victor about capturing the lightning and all of that. I saw him as funny, a zealot and odd. Not being able to behave and doing all of this before the animation, I had to envision it a certain way and the thing that pleases me is seeing the animation and the look of the character. The look is a bit of me some years ago and Vincent Price, too. Behaviorally, it’s how I would have played it.
Shock: And I’m sure the design team, when they first heard your vocals, were saying, “He’s giving us the voice we imagined for this character…”
Landau: I hope so, I hope so. Tim asked me to do it because he saw it certain way and I saw it a certain way and I think that was the same way.
Shock: Did you two discover anything new to your working dynamic? Maybe because you were only working in a recording studio as opposed to being on the set?
Landau: Well, it felt like no time had passed. I was very comfortable with him and he was very comfortable with me. He wanted to do Edward Scissorhands as an animated feature, originally, but he couldn’t. It was lucky Johnny [Depp] did it wonderfully. It was great they got to do that because they went on to work with one another many times. This was my third time with Tim and I find it creative and fun. What could be better? Once, we Skyped and he was present. I was in L.A. and he was in London and I had to make a small change and I did it three times and he said, “That’s it!”
Shock: What is the enduring quality of the Frankenstein story?
Landau: What’s keeping it going in this instance is Tim Burton. He wanted to do this very movie 28 years ago. And he didn’t. Maybe it’s fortuitous, again, because if he did it then, maybe it wouldn’t be in 3D. But this is the very movie that was burning inside him to make. As a kid, he loved Frankenstein and Dracula and those movies. It’s people who love those movies that continue…there’s something about that. It has to do, of course, with mortality or immortality. Human beings are fascinating with religion and stories about not dying. Or dying and being brought back to life. I think it’s just part of our make up. The idea of death is something that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. But to bring something back – or vampires who never die – is a logical fantasy for a human being.
Shock: There’s also the theme of the misfit, which can either be represented by Victor or the dog…
Landau: That’s because Tim was that kid. When I received the Golden Globe for Ed Wood, I said, “That guy over there, he combs his hair every six weeks whether he needs it or not…” Tim was that misfit kid, that kid on the block who was odd. A nice kid who came from a nice row of homes, but he was odd. He’d rather watch those late movies. I played stickball, but that’s because I was a New York kid. I didn’t pick up a baseball bat until I was much older. [laughs] But Tim’s unique. There are not many A-list directors who get to make the movies they want to make. I know two. Woody Allen and Tim Burton. Two different textures, but both get to do what they want and that’s rare.
Shock Till You Drop: We’ve seen many incarnations of Victor Frankenstein throughout the decades, how is your character different?
Charlie Tahan: He’s a kid, like, Tim as a kid. This is sort of based on Tim a bit. He liked making movies and he had a close relationship with his dog. It was not much different than the original short film. I watched the original and I liked it. The only differences between the short and this film are there are more Tim Burton-like characters, like Edgar.
Shock: How did Tim let you find the character in the recording studio?
Tahan: He didn’t make me do everything word for word, but he had a clear view of what he wanted. It was easy. I didn’t have to go through hair and make-up. I could do as many takes as I wanted. I also got a good look at the concept art which helped me figure out who he was. I never got to meet my co-stars, I mean, I just met Martin Landau last night. But a lot of my scenes are with the dog, Sparky, “C’mere boy…!” That’s like half of the stuff I had to do. On my last day, as a wrap gift, the animators gave me one of the Victor dolls.
Shock: You’ve done another genre film before this, are you a fan of horror?
Tahan: Yeah, I’m a huge Tim Burton fan and I’ve seen a lot of the old horror movies. I’ve always loved horror. My dad would show me a lot of stuff, like The Shining.
Shock: The Shining? Nice! How do you think kids will respond to the darkness of this film?
Tahan: I think it will be fine, they’ll love all of the references. There’s Gremlins, Frankenstein, Gamera…