If the Sept. 10-opening “Lovely, Still” makes a splash in the indie film world, a major share of the credit will have to go to Martin Landau, who stars in the tale of an old man who falls in love for the first time.
Landau was on hand to promote the film — that also stars the lovely, still Ellen Burstyn — when it was shown at the Toronto, Chicago and Milwaukee Film Festivals. He was there when it screened at an AARP conclave in Las Vegas, where, he says, “It got a standing ovation, though I joke that most of us had trouble standing.”
The esteemed, Oscar-winning 82-year-old thespian explains, “I’m behind this movie because I really, really like it a lot.” In fact, he helped the movie get made.
When he first heard that director Nicholas Fackler “had written a film for me, I said, ‘How old is he?’ thinking this was someone 40, 50 years old. They said, ’22.’ And I said, ‘Wow, I’ve got to go meet with this guy.’”
Landau subsequently told Fackler the script needed some changes, but “’If you want to work with me, I’ll do your movie.’” He says they spoke a couple of times a week over the next two months, going over every page. “We had a short list of actresses we wanted, and Ellen’s name was at the top. When the script was about 90 per cent there, I said, ‘Send it to Ellen now. I think she’ll like it.’ A few days later, the phone rang and it was Ellen, and she said, ‘Marty, what are we going to do in Omaha for seven weeks?’” — because that was where they’d be heading on location.
Along with Mark Rydell, Landau is executive director of The Actors Studio’s West Coast Branch, while Burstyn is co-president of The Actors Studio in New York with Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel. Landau admits he thought that if Fackler had problems on set, “Ellen and I could help him out.” However, Fackler proved up to the task of directing. “He reminds me of Tim Burton in many ways – very, very creative.”
With “Lovely, Still” soon to begin its release, Landau and Burstyn are due to re-team before the cameras next month in Wisconsin for a whole different movie – an untitled ensemble drama by “another young guy, Sam Levinson, Barry Levinson’s son. It’s about a family that’s dysfunctional and functional at the same time,” he reports. Ellen Barkin and Demi Moore also star.
Landau is also among the stars featured in PBS’s “Pioneers of Television” series this fall, and “I just did an episode of ‘The Simpsons.’ I never had done one before,” he reports. “I play a crazy European magician. It was fun.”
He adds, “I like to stay busy.” Obviously.