I’ve recently had the privilege of speaking with Juliet Landau, an immensely talented artist who portrayed Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that consumed much of my childhood. Ms. Landau and I spoke about her favorite vampire movies, narcissism, and her alluring new film, A Place Among the Dead.
“Look into my eyes… Look! Deeper. Tell me what you see.” -Dracula
Dracula, the proclaimed “King of Vampires”, holds many powers. He can shapeshift, he does not succumb to mortal disease, and possibly the most lethal, he possesses the ability to hypnotize his victims.
Landau’s new film does just that. It enthralls, it captivates, it hypnotizes. You find yourself deeply engrossed in the story, wondering the fate of her alter-ego character, Jules.
The film is a scripted, modern-day twist on a documentary where Landau plays an alter-ego of herself. The film explores our fascination with vampires, vanity, and the consequences when these fantasies are taken too far.
Gabrielle Bisaccia: Did your interest with vampires begin with your role as Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Juliet Landau: Yes, it started there. With A Place Among the Dead I’m using many aspects from my life, the vampire fanbase, and the vampire genre for a number of reasons. One, I got to bring in phenomenal talent, and two, I wanted to make an entertaining movie. I also wanted to lull the audience into a sense of safety to explore radical and unsafe ideas. In addition, I thought the vampire was the perfect metaphor for the ultimate narcissist.
GB: What inspired you to tell this story?
JL: I wanted to make a movie about the repercussions of growing up under the sway of narcissism and evil. My husband and I felt like we’d never seen a movie really dealing with this and we wanted to create a film, which shows what it means, what it feels like, and how it impacts your life.
GB: Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What was it like working with him again?
JL: It was so wonderful. The shoot was so much fun! We scripted the interviews and crafted them to seem completely unscripted and spontaneous. We worked with each artist for what they wanted to say and captured their views. It was just a blast to get to work with Joss again! His text really centers a lot on vampirism and the obsession with staying young and not aging.
GB: How did you get involved with Modern Films?
JL: A friend saw a sneak-peek we did just when we completed the film, right before lockdown, and he introduced us. We love their taste and the movies that they distribute. This year they released Werner Herzog’s new film and they will be releasing Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut. They are going to do a traditional release plan and press but also my husband Dev and I came up with something that’s never been done before and we all got excited about it and got on the same page. Modern Films feels like the film is visionary and now we’re doing a new model in terms of distribution that’s visionary, so they are just great partners in that way!
GB: What made you decide to play an “alter-ego” of yourself in the film?
JL: As they say, the more personal, the more universal, and I wanted to blur the lines. We use fact, fiction, and fantastical. It’s all scripted, but I really wanted to make an emotional, visceral and an experiential movie. I was playing with the POV; we’re inside Jules’ perspective for a lot of the film.
GB: You’ve said that the cameos in the film are like “cameos on steroids”. Can you speak to this?
JL: Yes! They are much larger than traditional cameos and they’re very instrumental in the storyline. They start almost like a Greek chorus. I was interested in the voice-over of my alter-ego character, Jules. I was looking at the thoughts we all have in all of our minds, which are communicated to us by our parents, how these become the voices running through our heads all the time. I wanted to investigate how that affects all our choices going forward. As far as the Greek chorus, there’s a point further in the film, where they become skewed to how Jules is interpreting them to line up with her lack of sense of self.
GB: Anne Rice is in A Place Among the Dead; her first appearance in film. It must have been a coup to get her. How did that process go?
JL: It was incredible! I reached out and wrote a letter and she said yes. It was serendipitous, and it was the same with everybody else. The entire cast believed in the message of the film, what I wanted to do, and the vision of the movie. Anne is such a remarkable artist, I feel so fortunate to have her on board and involved!
GB: Congratulations on your directorial debut! You also wrote the film… What was it like going from being solely in front of the camera to now being behind it?
JL: It’s a lot more work, but I loved it! It’s creatively challenging, exciting and engaging. I have learned so much and grown immensely. I love both; I really love acting and did truly enjoy the experience of having an idea and carrying it from its inception all the way to fruition. As an actor you’re a component of the whole, but as the director you’re making all of the creative choices.
GB: Is the film going to be available on VOD?
JL: It’s going to be available so many ways! One of things we’re doing that is really exciting is the worldwide premiere on October 29th, virtually. It’s sponsored by MAC Cosmetics and New York Comic Con. A lot of the cast is attending. We’re going to do a live stream where everybody watches together and then have a talk afterwards with myself and the cast. On October 30th, we’re doing “Halloween Among the Dead” which is a Starfury Conventions virtual premiere screening event, it’s very “Buffy-centric” so it has a lot to offer. On October 31st, Halloween, Tomorrows Ghosts is hosting a special virtual screening event. It’s a music and goth-centric festival, centered on the film and has a very expansive Halloween-themed program. Starting on October 30th we have our premium video on demand run in the United States at Laemmle Theaters, virtually, and in theaters wherever possible. Starting November 9th, the film will be available for PVOD on the Modern Films website and virtual theaters across the world.
GB: What’s your favorite vampire movie?
JL: There are so many, I have to list a bunch of them. I love Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula with Gary Oldman, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, our friend Steve Niles created 30 Days of Night– that’s a terrifying vampire movie, Shadow of the Vampire is wonderful, The Hunger, 1931 Dracula, Nosferatu, the Hammer Films, The Lost Boys, Fright Night…It’s hard for me to pick one, it really depends on what mood you’re in!
GB: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with our readers?
JL: I’m going to be continuing to do both acting and directing. I’ve been recurring on TNT’s Claws; It stopped for lockdown but I’m going back to do another episode and then I also have another project that I’m directing as well, so a lot is on the burner!
A Place Among the Dead will be available VOD Oct 30th in US, November 9th throughout the globe, and for a Halloween treat, there is the worldwide premiere and multiple screening events available on the Modern Films website now.
If you need me, I’ll be locked in my room re-watching all of Juliet’s favorites and A Place Among the Dead until Halloween!