Today we are shining a special solo spotlight on one of the most revered actors of the stage and screen on the premiere of his newest feature film lead role, that of the eponymous (human) title character in ROBOT & FRANK - which recently received the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the Sundance Film Festival - the incomparable Frank Langella.
“You have to love a character to play him,” Frank Langella famously once related about the art of acting - as he similarly writes in his acclaimed memoir DROPPED NAMES, available now - and the list of roles he has played on stages and screens around the world which have endeared him to an international audience over the last forty years is a long one. Whether we remember Langella most fondly for his countless stage roles or screen roles, his resume is studded with big stars, big directors and big projects, all the way from his stage, TV and film debuts in the 1960s to this very day with ROBOT & FRANK. A three-time Tony Award winner, onstage Langella has appeared in entities as diverse as a literal leaping lizard in Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning SEASCAPE - for which he won his first Tony - to his iconic portrayal of the title count in DRACULA both onstage and onscreen, to memorable replacement roles, such as Salieri in AMADEUS and Eddie in HURLYBURLY, all the way to his many rightly acclaimed 21st century turns on Broadway in FORTUNE’S FOOL (his second Tony), MATCH, FROST/NIXON (his third), A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, and, just last season, MAN AND BOY, for which he was nominated for his umpteenth well-earned Tony Award.
Besides his many notable Broadway, West End and touring appearances, Langella has carved out an enormously impressive film career, as well, since his debut in Otto Preminger’s THE DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE in 1970. Filmgoers may hold an eternal flame in a dark corner of their hearts for Langella’s arguably peerless essaying of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire count in DRACULA in 1979, but it is another societal predator that may have provided the fodder for his most moving and vivid performance on celluloid to date for many among us - that of disgraced former president Richard Nixon in the searing political drama FROST/NIXON. Other recent dramatic roles that audiences may recall with a smile include Langella’s troubled newsman in George Clooney’s superb period broadcast news-based film GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, as well as his indelible appearance in Oliver Stone’s absorbing WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. Running the gamut from dramas to comedies - lest we forget EDDIE, JUNIOR and DAVE in the 1990s, as well as his early-career highlight, the Mel Brooks classic THE TWELVE CHAIRS - Langella has mastered many mediums and made a major mark in a handful of significant roles on TV, too, in projects such as SHERLOCK HOLMES, MOSES and JASON & THE ARGONAUTS. Also, sci-fi and horror buffs are no stranger to Langella’s myriad charms either, due to his detailed and involving portraits of some stupendously creepy creatures in Roman Polanski’s THE NINTH GATE, co-starring Johnny Depp, and Richard Kelly’s THE BOX, co-starring James Marsden and Cameron Diaz - to say nothing of his supporting role in the engaging real-life-based 2010 serial killer thriller ALL GOOD THINGS, co-starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, and the cult classic MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.
Furthermore, the future for Langella on film looks promising, particularly since he will be teaming with director Stephen Frears next year on the highly-anticipated HBO telepic Muhammad Ali’S GREATEST FIGHT, co-starring recent InDepth InterView participant Ben Walker and recent Flash Special subject Christopher Plummer, in addition to taking on a leading role in Paulo Morelli’s MARTYRS’ CROSSING. Plus, who knows what stage role he has up his sleeve next for all of us Broadway babies to salivate over and savor some season very soon? Who knows - maybe even a musical! After all, Langella even managed to fit in some time during his busy career to appear as Ebenezer Scrooge in A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Madison Square Garden around the turn of the century.
Dracula to Scrooge to Nixon to, now, a robot’s best friend in ROBOT & FRANK, Frank Langella’s astounding career on stages and screens large and small is something to celebrate and hopefully we can look forward to many more great performances in the months, years and decades to come. Langella has proven time and time again over the years - oftentimes playing less-than-lovable guys - that we need not even like the character in order for us to fall in love with the very actor portraying him. After all, a great actor at his best can get under the skin of the character and the audience simultaneously - and Langella does, again and again, in the very best possible ways. Since he has evidently mastered the art of playing men, it is safe to assume that all that is left to do next is play a machine of some sort - a robot, perhaps?
A Man For All Mediums
So, today, let’s focus on the most formidable and unforgettable of Frank Langella’s many fine film performances, as we look ahead to the release of his newest feature, ROBOT & FRANK, now in select cities.
More information on ROBOT & FRANK is available at the official site here.
Without further ado, check out the engaging trailer for ROBOT & FRANK - which co-stars James Marsden, Liv Tyler and Susan Sarandon, with Peter Sarsgaard as the voice of Robot - by clicking below.
Now, travel all the way back to more than forty years ago to Frank Langella’s first feature film role, that of George Prager in DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE, directed by Otto Preminger. Check out this super swingin’, psychedelic, disco-set scene from the film below for an impossibly young and dashing Frank.
Frank followed that up the very same year with the Russian-oriented Mel Brooks slapstick comedy THE TWELVE CHAIRS, co-starring Ron Moody and Dom DeLuise. Enjoy this caustic trailer for the Brooks gem.
From drama to comedy to the European mystery THE DEADLY TRAP the very next year (click here to view the film on YouTube), Langella flexed his acting muscles by appearing in films in many diverse genres throughout the 1970s - a foremost example being the western THE WRATH OF GOD, co-starring Robert Mitchum and Rita Hayworth. Yet, more than any other film, now or then, it is his gripping Dracula in John Badham’s lauded DRACULAR in 1979 that may be remembered most vividly and fondly to the annals of history.
Enjoy the original theatrical trailer for DRACULA.
The 1980s proved to be significantly less fruitful for Langella insofar as juicy onscreen roles were concerned, though he scored a series of stage successes in wildly divergent projects such as Peter Shaffer’s AMADEUS, Noel Coward’s DESIGN FOR LIVING, David Rabe’s HURLYBURLY and a reprisal of his celebrated Sherlock Holmes in the 1987 SHERLOCK’S LAST CASE.
Also in 1987, Langella graced in the screen in a surefire cult classic like few others - MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Take in the far-out adventures of He-Man and company by viewing the original trailer.
Langella made far fewer Broadway appearances in the 1990s, focusing primarily on a particularly active period of his film career - over fifteen films in less than ten years, besides many television turns; with some roles having more resonance than others.
One highlight of the era is unquestionably Langella’s Luis de Santangel in Ridley Scott’s historical epic 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE.
Period drama to contemporary romantic comedy, Ivan Reitman’s hit DAVE displayed Langella’s considerable comedic chops (which were, inextricably, largely reserved for the stage, it seems, prior to this period of time).
Utilizing the rich source material to its best effect, Langella’s studied Claire Quilty in Adrian Lyne’s engaging LOLITA is one of Langella’s finest performances committed to film to date.
Frank Langella finished out the last century with one of his most remarkable and unusual roles - that of the mysterious book collector in Roman Polanski’s twisty thriller THE NINTH GATE.
Langella returned to the stage with more consistency in the following years, though, to this day, he manages to strike a commendable balance between stage and screen projects.
George Clooney’s spellbinding GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK showcases Langella acting up a storm in the role of William Paley.
Playing a man with only half a face, Langella’s visceral acting in Richard Kelly’s strange sci-fi period piece THE BOX is truly outstanding. Just remember: whatever you do, don’t press the button!
While Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS was not a BATMAN-sized hit, Langella gave gravity to his passionate Perry White.
In a relatively brief but pivotal role, Langella makes a mark in Oliver Stone’s WALL STREET sequel WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS, starring Michael Douglas and Shia LaBeouf.
Another small but standout recent appearance is Langella’s tortured patriarch in the criminally underappreciated true-life horror story ALL GOOD THINGS.
With the undoubted cinematic highpoint of his career in this century thus far (at least prior to ROBOT & FRANK), here is the trailer for FROST/NIXON, featuring Frank Langella in yet another role of a lifetime - that of Richard Nixon; a part which he successfully brought to the screen based on his magnetic stage performance in the Peter Morgan play by which, in turn, the Stephen Frears film is inspired.
So, what Frank Langella performance is most irreversibly and indelibly etched in your mind? Does the vampiric count of Transylvanian lore remain your eternal love or does his uncanny Richard Nixon chill your blood to the bone most of all? Perhaps maybe even one of his lesser-known but equally appreciable characters compels you commandingly in the final reel - such as his complex study of the Nabokovian Claire Quilty in LOLITA or the comedic highs reached in his celebrated Mel Brooks collaboration, THE TWELVE CHAIRS? Or maybe DAVE? That's to say nearly nothing of his many magnificant stage turns that have won over audiences for decades - particularly his recent Tony Award-nominated run in MAN AND BOY. With a career like this, there are too many choices to settle on just one favorite role, but, judging from the trailer, ROBOT & FRANK may finally give our very own Frank yet another celluloid role of a lifetime.
As this clip collection and critical analysis make quite clear, Frank Langella is resolutely a man for all mediums.