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October 20, 2014

Fan Expo 2011 Day 3: Don't Rub Jeannie, Six Million Dollar Pranks and Landau's Lessons

by Aaron Broverman, posted Aug 28th 2011 9:32AM
We've already passed the midpoint of this year's Fan Expo, but don't despair, because Day 3 was chock-full of memorable moments from Lee Majors, Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden of 'I Dream of Jeannie' fame. There was also a once-in-a-lifetime acting class from the indomitable Martin Landau -- who has worked with and trained film legends of all kinds -- as well as being a legendary actor in his own right.

So, what are you waiting for? I can hear you salivating with anticipation from here. Read on, my friend -- Read on!

Pranking Presley
Lee Majors grew up watching westerns where the white hats were good and the black hats were bad, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the 'Six Million Dollar Man' disapproves of today's television landscape.

"I don't like what they do today, with the violence, all the blowing up and the blood/guts stuff. I wish kids today could see a show like ours, because whenever we had a fight, we never left anybody for dead. They always got up as we left the scene."

Still, Majors is no conservative prude. He met Elvis Presley by launching the mother of all prank wars when he snuck on to the set of 'Clambake.' It was during a scene at a bar, when he dressed as a waiter and started loudly clearing a table right behind The King. "I did it about three times and the third time it agitated him enough to give me the look. He recognized me and said 'What the hell are you doing here?'"

From then on, nowhere was safe for Elvis; Majors made it his goal to harass The King at every turn. He couldn't find peace, even in Vegas! "Elvis always had a wheelchair waiting for him when he got off stage, so they could streak him through the kitchen and up to his suite. I would get in the wheelchair before him and the bodyguards would start pushing me and he'd be running after me."

Not that Kind of Master
Fan Expo really let the 'Jeannie' out of the bottle when they reunited 'I Dream of Jeannie' lead Barbara Eden with her former master Larry Hagman (Major Tony Nelson) for a special Q&A. Clearly, these two had a thing for each other -- even if it was only fictional -- instantly rekindling that trademark sexual tension as if it were 1965 again.

Their real relationship is strictly platonic, and the show did everything it could to make sure 1960s audiences didn't think the two stars were sleeping together, on or off-screen. "The bottle wasn't supposed to be in my master's bedroom, but, it did end up there once in a while," confirms Eden. "They decided that whenever she was in his bedroom and he went to bed, the smoke had to come up under the door and out, so everyone knew I was not in the bedroom."

When the characters finally did get married in season 5, Eden and Hagman agree it killed the show. "We knew we were going to do it, but neither one of us thought it was a very good idea because it takes away all the tension of you trying to get me in bed and me saying, 'No, no, no! My career! My career!" said Hagman.

Being Bela
The final Q&A session of the day was intended to give fans first-hand anecdotes from Martin Landau's most memorable roles in horror and science fiction, but what they got was a bigger blessing -- an hour-long lecture on the acting process from Martin Landau, the instructor. This is the same man who trained Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston as co-director of The Actors Studio West. One of the highlights of the lesson was taking fans through his process for becoming Bela Lugosi, his Oscar-winning role in 'Ed Wood.'

"I looked at about 20 different Lugosi performances and a couple of interviews that he gave, and I began to notice the differences between us. My eyes open up wide when I become emotional, his shut down. I have a lot of teeth, so when I smile I look like a piano, he had a black hole and tucked his chin. My hands -- my energy was out to my fingertips, his was a softer hand. As I watched him, there was sort of an osmosis. He either entered my body or I entered his, but I became more and more like Lugosi and started to admire him because he kept his dignity and I admired that and became a huge fan of his.

When I started 'Ed Wood' I could've juggled or tap-danced as Lugosi and I said to Tim [Burton], 'If after five minutes they're saying Landau's doing a good job, we don't have a movie. They have to forget it's me and believe its Lugosi' and that was my aim, and that's what I set out to do and I guess it worked because I won a lot of awards."

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