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Tuesday, 17 February, 2009 0:46 AM
EXCLUSIVE: Michael Landon Jr. directs 'The Velveteen Rabbit'; considers filming in Michigan
Photo credit: www.titletrakk.com
Actor, Writer, Director and Producer Michael Landon Jr.
Michael Landon Jr. is an actor, director, writer and producer. Fame is something he's used to. He is the son of the late Michael Landon, who became famous on TV's Bonanza. Landon Jr. directed the motion picture The Velveteen Rabbit, which is set to hit theatres on February 27 and be released on DVD on March 17. Landon Jr. is also interested in selecting Michigan to shoot upcoming films.
The Hollywood director started his career as an actor on TV's Little House on the Prarie. He played the character of Jim on a single episode.
"That's a name I don't even remember," said Michael Landon Jr. in an exclusive phone interview. "It was great. I played a bratty kid in the school house and enjoyed my time. I didn't wanna do it again necessarily but enjoyed my time on the set."
Landon Jr. also starred in episodes of Bonanza in 1993 and 1995.
"That was an opportunity that came my way," he said. "I actually never wanted to act. My passion has always been behind the camera to write and direct. So the opportunity was brought to me and I started acting for directing purposes. I felt it was a great opportunity to see what it's really like to be an actor. Obviously, it was very nostalgic and something that I grew up on Bonanza. I was honored to play the role."
He wrote a made-for-television movie called Michael Landon: The Father I Knew.
"That was a movie I made for CBS," the director said. "That was a personal story. When you live the life of a family that's famous, you kinda live in a glass house. It's not easy. Especially when the rags are following you, tracking you and watching your every move. So I wanted to tell a story about divorce from a child's point of view. No matter who you are, whether you're famous or not famous, it's a painful experience to go through."
Landon Jr. has worked in dozens of TV shows and movies. Which is his favorite to work on?
"I don't really have a favorite per say," he said. "It's such a competitive business to be in. Everytime that you work, you just, for me at least, I feel very blessed. There's a lot of talented people out there all vying to make their films. I will say that the film I have coming out, The Velveteen Rabbit, is definitely dear to my heart. It's very special to me."
The director gave us the synopsis of the film, which is set to hit theatres on February 27 and be released on DVD on March 17.
"The Velveteen Rabbit is inspired by the Margery Williams classic," the director said. "In the Margery Williams story, it's told from the rabbit's point of view. I wanted to tell the story in live action so I told it from the little boy's point of view. It's a channing tale about a boy Toby who is sent away by his busy father to spend the holidays with his stern, cold grandmother. In his grandmother's house, he finds a magic attic where the forgotten toys are being kept including a stuffed, velveteen rabbit. This rabbit unlocks a world of imagination. There he goes on his adventures."
Landon Jr. worked alongside the award-winning cast of Jane Seymour, Ellen Burstyn and Tom Skerritt.
"I was thrilled that they loved the project," he said. "They did a magnificent job doing the voices of the animated characters."
The director also served as one of the producers and a co-writer of the script.
"I'm hoping that parents and grandparents with young children will get a chance to get out to the theaters and see it," Landon Jr. said. "I think they'll have a magical experience if they go. It's really a beautiful story credited to Margery Williams. I guarantee they'll leave not only entertained but wanting to love more."
Landon Jr. has been a many of many talents. He's been an actor, a writer, a producer and a director. Which role does he enjoy most?
"Directing," he quickly responded. "It's the one job where you get to interact with all of the different departments, whether it's your production designer, your D.P. [director of photography], your cast or your writer. Filmmaking is a director's medium. That's where the story telling happens. I've always loved that part of filmmaking. I started writing so I could get a directing break. Writers become directors. I do enjoy that part of the craft but directing is where my heart is."
What does he plan to do in the future now that The Velveteen Rabbit is complete?
"Finishing up a novel called The Silent Gift, which will be out this fall," the director said. "I'm co-authoring with my writing partner Cindy Kelley, who I did The Velveteen Rabbit with and Love Comes Softly and a couple of other projects. Then, I have another project I believe we'll begin filming in spring or early summer called The Shunning, which is an Amish film based upon a Beverly Lewis novel. The Amish are very fascinating and The Shunning revolves around their way of cutting off people who disobey the or dun to try to bring them back into the fold."
The Hollywood film industry has been coming to Michigan with the state's 42 percent tax incentive. Landon Jr. admits he would like to shoot a film in the Great Lakes state.
"We're seriously looking at Michigan for a couple of projects including The Shunning," he said. "There's another project I really can't talk about right now but hoping that it will materialize and that one is definitely looking at Michigan and hoping that Michigan continues to support the film industry and keep the tax incentive alive."
What is his advice for someone looking to have their first big break into the business?
"I wouldn't look for the big break," the director said. "I spent eight years in camera, for example, I started off as a film loader, a second assistant, a first assistant cameraman. Steady cam, production assistant. I would encourage them to try to get on student projects. Try to work from the ground up versus trying to find that big break."
Look for his new film, The Velveteen Rabbit, in selected theaters nationwide and on DVD on March 17.
For more information, visit www.thevelveteenmovie.com.
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