Juliet Landau directed and stars in the new film A Place Among the Dead. The film begins as an exploration of vampires, including some of her Buffy, the Vampire Slayer colleagues as well as authors Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris, Dracula star Gary Oldman and many more. However, the study of vampires leads into an exploration on narcissism. Landau gets personal in the film including some of her old journal entries and talking about her parents. Landau is the daughter of actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.
Landau spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet about A Place Among the Dead and she got personal with us too. A Place Among the Dead is now showing in virtual cinemas via Modern Films, with post-screening Zooms with Landau and her collaborators.
Juliet Landau shares the difficulties of growing up in a Hollywood family
The theme of A Place Among the Dead is that vampires can be a metaphor for narcissists. Narcissism certainly exists outside of Hollywood, but Hollywood is a place where it can thrive. Landau opens up about the pressures her parents put on her, including telling her there is only room for one star in the family.
“It’s personal,” Landau said. “That’s why I use it but it is a device to have a broader discussion. So it is personal and it is truthful. In terms of how I grew up and what that experience was, that is truthful. I know that it’s surprising to some people but the mission of talking about this is sort of bigger than my family experience if you know what I mean.”
Before ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,’ Juliet Landau had to face her own demons
Growing up in such a hostile environment that drained her energy, Landau learned more about the clinical diagnosis of what she was experiencing.
“I guess I was always aware that something painful and difficult was going on in my house,” Landau said. “But, I think I became truly really clear about it when I met my husband and we discovered what love is. I had experienced love as a painful feeling. I didn’t know what it encompassed. What I was told was love was not what love truly is.”
Landau married cinematographer Deverill Weekes, who filmed A Place Among the Dead.
“Coming together and experiencing when someone has your back and you have theirs and you want the best for them and they want the best for you and you really want one another to thrive and become your best self and what that is was so earth shattering and illuminating and incredible,” Landau said. “When you’re young you adapt to it and think that it’s you because it’s the only way that you can get through it. Then as an adult, that isn’t useful for having a productive and happy and healthy life.”
Juliet Landau had to make the difficult decision
Landau’s character in A Place Among the Dead, Jules, is just now dealing with the history of narcissists in her life. In real life, Landau decided not to associate with her parents anymore some time ago.
“My life became just so full of joy and productivity and creativity and love and all of those positive things,” Landau said. “I feel like we have a very limited time on this planet and I had a friend who once said blood is not necessarily thicker than water. It’s sometimes just stickier. You can surround yourself with amazing, supportive, giving friends who you have a reciprocal, giving relationship with that can become your true family, your real family and for me as well as for my husband, that’s just been an incredibly positive thing to do.”
Landau adds that there are other ways to cope with narcissists in one’s life, and in some of the Place Among the Dead Zooms they discuss other ways.
“Narcissists don’t change, so one option which Dev and I have done is to cut that out of your life completely,” Landau said. “When we did that, our lives bloomed beyond belief. But, if you’re not able to do that, if you have children with that person, whatever the circumstances are or you don’t want to do that, there are some tactics for setting boundaries so that your whole life isn’t turned upside down.”
Coping with narcissists is never easy
One thing any coping mechanism has in common is that none of them are easy.
“What the movie and what we’re talking about, really it bucks a commandment,” Landau said. “So people have a hard time embracing that but the whole point of making this film and having this discussion is that shedding light on the truth is always a positive thing and it is good to talk about the fact that there are many options including having no contact, that can be helpful to people.”