Bosch’s Juliet Landau stuns with new film A Place Among The Dead

Juliet Landau. Photographer: Deverill Weekes, Makeup & Hair: Shanna Cistulli, Stylist: Rebecca Penton. Courtesy of PR Machine
Juliet Landau. Photographer: Deverill Weekes, Makeup & Hair: Shanna Cistulli, Stylist: Rebecca Penton. Courtesy of PR Machine /

Juliet Landau discusses her new film A Place Among The Dead.

Juliet Landau won over TV crime drama fans with her portrayal of Rita Tedesco in Bosch, but you haven’t seen anything like what she’s done with A Place Among The Dead.

This bone-chilling, mind-bending movie melds fact and fiction as Juliet plays an alter-ego version of herself investigating a vampire-centric mystery. It also has a true crime angle, too, so TV crime drama finds will find as much to love about it as horror buffs.

But that description is just scratching the surface. The movie digs into what it means to be human (and not human enough), while including a ensemble that includes Robert Patrick, Gary Oldman and Anne Rice, and featuring a tour de force performance by Juliet both in front of and behind the camera.

The film is Juliet’s directorial debut, and a collaboration with her husband Deverill Weekes, with whom she co-wrote and co-produced the picture. With this first outing she proves that she has an excellent, and incisive, eye for filmmaking. Learn more before you watch A Place Among The Dead digitally and in select theaters starting Dec. 14.

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Precinct TV: This film is very personal to you for a number of reasons, so what has the experience been like just to have it released and to see the reaction?

Juliet Landau: We had our virtual worldwide premiere Halloween weekend. It was an incredible experience. One of the things that we decided to do is something that hasn’t been done before. Our premiere was sponsored by M.A.C Cosmetics and New York Comic-Con. At Comic-Con usually there are panels, which generate later ticket sales. But what we did is made an event where the film was available right there virtually, for everyone all over the world to stream simultaneously, watch it together, followed by a Q&A with myself, Gary Oldman, Robert Patrick, Lance Henriksen, Charlaine Harris and other members of the cast. The audience was able to interact about it right then.

With the closures of cinemas everywhere, this was the direction things were moving in, even pre-COVID. We started thinking about how this will be some aspect of the future. This is the water cooler, cinema experience, which has been sorely lacking culturally, where everything’s been so spread out and dispersed. It also put the fans right at the forefront.

With streaming, people watch it all at different times. And so, you don’t get that conversation, you don’t get that connection. We are continuing to have special, interactive, worldwide screening events, while the movie is playing at Laemmle Theatres. We are so happy to be able to have this forum and connection in our initial distribution window. The dialogue we have been having is incredibly powerful and profound. This is very much what we wanted with the film. The Zoom conversations with the audience are extraordinary!

PTV: A Place Among The Dead doesn’t fit into a specific genre or style of filmmaking. How would you describe it to new audiences?

JL: The movie explores the repercussions of growing up under the sway of narcissism and evil. My husband Deverill Weekes,and I co-wrote and co-produced the movie. We come from similar backgrounds, and we wanted to make a movie that we hadn’t seen before and talk about something that isn’t covered in film and really isn’t covered in society as a whole.

But there is a deep yearning for it. If you type in “narcissism”, the numbers are staggering! There are 9,120,000 Youtube video results, 70,400,000 Google results. Psychological abuse has 188 million Google results. There obviously is a need for people to look at this. And clearly, in our society, there’s sadly been an escalation in narcissism, cruelty and bad behavior. It’s time.

PTV: We should be clear that the film is entirely scripted, even though your character Jules is based on yourself.

JL: it’s entirely scripted. We do blur the lines of reality. The movie is part fact part, part fiction, part fantastical but all scripted. Even our faux interview sections are completely scripted. I chose to make A Place Among The Dead searingly personal. You know the old adage, “the more personal, the more universal.” I’m inviting the viewer to become the participant. The whole point is to make an entertaining movie and to give voice to what has affected many, to open up a dialogue.

A Place Among The Dead
Juliet Landau in A Place Among The Dead. Photo Credit: Modern Films/Courtesy of PR Machine /

PTV: The film contains a very significant true crime element. How did you incorporate that into the picture, and why combine it with the horror genre?

JL: I used genre for a number of reasons. One, to make an entertaining movie. If you type in “vampires” there are 288 million Google results. Clearly, it’s a genre people enjoy. Secondly, I want to lull the audience into a sense of safety to explore unsafe and rational ideas. Third, it allowed me to bring in my and the other actors’ histories.

And lastly, the vampire is the perfect metaphor for the ultimate narcissist. It’s a being which drains life and lifeforce for its own volition, its needs with no regard for the well-being of others.

As far as the crime element, that is one of the factual elements. We did a lot of research for the film. A criminal profiler and 25-year veteran police officer in homicide, Sal Labarbera, consulted on the film. We have a detective Sal in our movie based on him, but it’s Sally, played by Amy Jennings.

You’re never quite sure if one character is a vampire or a serial killer who’s emulating a vampire in the style of his murders. Scarily, there is this type of murderer, which exists quite frequently.

PTV: There are some incredible actors in A Place Among The Dead alongside you. Was it simply a matter of you pulling from your own connections, or how did you get them all into the movie?

JL: I play an alter-ego version of myself, as do Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Robert Patrick, Lance Henriksen, Joss Whedon and best-selling authors Charlaine Harris & Anne Rice, both appearing for the first time ever in a scripted, narrative movie. We all have ties to the vampire genre.

The very first person that I reached out to was Anne Rice. We had a conversation, and she immediately said yes! Gary Oldman, I had worked with prior. I reached out to him, and it was the same thing. Robert Patrick produced one of the first movies I ever did. I sent him the material and he came on board immediately. I had worked with Lance on a different project, and went to his manager.

It was the most serendipitous experience. Not one person that we reached out to said no. Every single person said yes and quickly. We felt like it was further confirmation that we had to make this movie. It seems the talent all believed in the message of the movie and the vision that I had for it.

PTV: Do you have a favorite part of the movie now that you look back on it? Anything that’s truly struck a chord with you going through this whole experience?

JL:  We had a few sneak peek screenings just before lockdown, when we completed the film. And the same thing that happened at our sneak peeks has happened at our premiere and our screening events. Most of the audience comes out emotional, crying and then stays for hours afterwards to talk about the film and then to share intensely personal stories. Our interactive Zooms with the audience have been lasting over three and a half hours! It has affirmed the need for this timely subject and this conversation.

One of the things people say is that they can keep finding different levels with each viewing. People are enjoying picking out more and more of the factual elements. There are a lot of Easter eggs and a lot of hints and clues. People are expressing their interpretations and what is deeply resonating with them.

People get very passionate about, “No, no, this is what it really meant to me! This is what I was connected to, this happened in my own life, this is the experience I’ve had.” And then somebody else [will say] “But I’ve had this experience,” or “I’m having this in my life right now.”

In the movie, we’re looking at familial narcissism, but the traits of malignant narcissists are the same across the board. One audience member was talking about his ex-wife, another about her ex-boyfriend, another about her boss, another his best friend, and then of course, our world leaders. It’s the same behavior across the board. Narcissists don’t change. The conversations have been just so deeply fascinating about what does that mean and what is the nature of evil?

PTV: So of course the big question is, how do you follow this up? Do you have any idea of what comes next for Juliet Landau, not just as an actress but as a filmmaker?

JL: I have, actually. We have another project, a TV series, which we’ve already shot. It’s completely unscripted, a documentary talk show which I host. All of the people who worked with us on A Place Among The Dead came back to work with us again, plus Willem Dafoe, Tim Burton and many other notables. We are just in the process of signing some paperwork right now, bringing on an incredible partner and a fabulous showrunner.

That’s next up, and then we have a bunch of other scripts which we’ve optioned. They will make incredible narrative features. So we’ll see which one of those gets financed first.

On top of the workload of our movie, I just shot a film in the desert which is directed by Thomas Negova [and] produced by E. Elias Merhige, who directed Shadow of the Vampire and Suspect Zero with Sir Ben Kingsley. The production was very COVID-safe. I also just shot another episode of TNT’s Claws, which I was shooting a recurring role on before lockdown.

Next. Julie Ann Emery on her fantastic Bosch role. dark

A Place Among The Dead premieres digitally and at select Laemmle Theatres on Dec. 14. For more information, visit Modern Films.