“Juliet is fearless.”
Those are the words actor James Marsters has used when asked about Juliet Landau, his co-star from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Marsters and Landau played Spike and Drusilla, respectively, whom creator Joss Whedon described as the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen as vampires.
Today, Landau is fearlessly exploring new frontier with her upcoming documentary, A Place Among the Dead – the definitive, comprehensive documentary about vampires in pop culture – which she is writing, producing and directing. This is the first time the who’s who of the vampire genre has been seen together in one documentary – something that has never been attempted before.
“I was extremely fortunate to work with the brilliant Joss Whedon and to play Drusilla on Buffy and Angel. It was such an amazing world to play in. Through the years, whenever I’ve hung out with creators, writers, directors, actors who have lived in the vampire universe, I have had the best conversations – interesting, funny, insightful discussions – and I’ve always thought, ‘I wish people could see this!’” explained Landau. “The stuff never shared before, the camaraderie, the insider’s view.”
At first, she and her husband Deverill Weekes self-funded Dead. However, the documentary has grown beyond their wildest expectations. Many creators/writers and actors have approached the couple, expressing their desire to be interviewed for Dead. To able to complete this project, Landau will launch an Indiegogo campaign on Tuesday, Oct. 27, in an effort to raise funds.
“It’s crazy. So many people want to be interviewed. This project has taken on a life of its own!” said Landau.
So far, Landau has interviewed Whedon, novelist Anne Rice (author of the Interview with the Vampire series), actor Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), actor Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire), actor Robert Patrick (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), filmmaker Tim Burton (2013’s Dark Shadows remake, 1989’s Batman), Charlaine Harris (author of the Southern Vampire Mysteries, which inspired HBO’s True Blood), filmmaker/actor Kevin Grevioux (Raze in the Underworld franchise, which he also created), filmmaker David Greenwalt (Angel and Grimm co-creator), Jim Kouf (Angel consulting producer, Grimm co-creator), filmmaker Tom Holland (Fright Night creator), actress Mariana Klaveno (True Blood), filmmaker Cole Haddon (NBC’s Dracula), filmmaker Steve Niles (30 Days of Night creator), filmmaker E. Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire director), novelist Kim Newman (author of the Anno Dracula series), actress Madeline Smith (Hammer Film Productions’ Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Vampire Lovers), actress Caroline Munro (Hammer’s Dracula AD 1972, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter), filmmaker Stephen Woolley (producer of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire adaptation), novelist Christopher Golden (author of The Shadow Saga series of vampire novels and various Buffy-verse novels and comics) and musician David J of the gothic rock bands Bauhaus and Love and Rockets.
“(This documentary) provides a rare perspective. It’s an insider’s view into the vampire phenomenon. Every interviewee shares stories that have never been seen before on film. Also, the movie transcends the traditional idea of a documentary. It is a tapestry with beautiful, interlinking narrative films inspired by the conversations. They are set in New Orleans, London, and various locales. No film has ever brought together such a wide, varied, passionate, avid and active super-fan base,” said Landau.
When interviewing Rice, considered by many to be the mother of the vampire fiction genre, Landau attended the Vampire Ball with her in New Orleans.
“She is everything you would imagine: brilliant, articulate, lovely, creative, inspiring, funny, perceptive, and special. Every single interviewee we have interviewed has discussed her influence on them. If Bram Stoker is the father of the vampire tale, Anne is certainly the mother. It was a lot of fun to talk to her about Lestat (the main character of Interview with the Vampire), who has become such an icon, that he feels like he exists,” Landau fondly recalled.
Another memory of making this documentary is interviewing Whedon when he was finishing up post-production on this year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which grossed $1.4 billion at the box office.
“He was very generous with his time,” Landau remembered. “He was two weeks out from delivering his cut of (the Avengers sequel) to Marvel. It was incredible that he took the time at that moment to do the interview. We went into this maze of offices, people hard at work… We set-up and created a little bubble. His interview is out-of-this-world-phenomenal. He speaks with the same intelligence, style, insightfulness, and precision with which he writes. His take on things is completely captivating and fascinating. So much so, that we lost track of time and the interview went much longer than anticipated. Joss emailed afterward to say that he’d really had a great time!”
Having played a vampire – a very insane one at that – and having interviewed all these vampire auteurs, Landau gave her unique perspective on why vampires endure in pop culture ever since Stoker popularized them with his 1897 novel Dracula.
“I think vampires have staying power because vampirism has been used and can be used to explore the human condition in such a wide variety of ways,” she explained. “For Joss Whedon, the metaphor for Buffy was ‘high school is hell.’ For Anne Rice, it was about ‘loss and grief.’ Her daughter (Michele) died of leukemia, so she wrote Interview with the Vampire with a child vampire (Claudia, played by Kirsten Dunst in the movie) who wouldn’t die… For Kevin Grevioux, creator of Underworld, it was ‘interracial dating.’ He created two species, which don’t get along. For Joss again, Angel was about exploring ‘addiction.’ For Tim Burton, Dark Shadows is about dysfunctional families. Vampirism affords a wonderful prism for us to view ourselves through. Plus, who doesn’t dream of staying young and living forever?”
For further information and/or to donate to the Indiegogo fund for Dead, go to http://igg.me/at/Undead.
(This article was updated December 14, 2020 with the confirmed title change to A Place Among the Dead.)