Martin Landau Talks About Creating Character

Much of what I write about for this blog and teach in my workshops grew directly and indirectly from my early studies in directing actors at UCLA Film School, with the wonderful Delia Salvi of the Actors' Studio as my mentor. Though I became a writer instead of a director, I learned from Delia how to approach creating honest and dynamic fictional characters. Delia and Martin Landau were good friends, and she spoke with great admiration about his talents as an actor and teacher. In recognition of his passing this week, I'm quoting a brief snippet of his 1990 interview with Terri Gross, on her show, Fresh Air.

LANDAU: It's what motivates you unconsciously that drives you on. Characters reveal things inadvertently, very often, not purposefully. No one walks into a crowded room at a cocktail party filled with strangers and says, hello, everybody, I'm embarrassed.

GROSS: (Laughter).

LANDAU: You know, that's not something people do.

GROSS: Right.

LANDAU: Therefore, what you - what people in that condition are trying to do is trying to convince themselves they're relaxed and trying to appear relaxed to other people when, in fact, what's going on is contrary to that. So the actor has to create the degree of unrest and then try to cover it.