In "Rounders," Martin Landau plays poker hustler Matt Damon's professor-mentor, mirroring his real-life role with young film talent. Landau's turn as Bela Lugosi in 1994's "Ed Wood" earned him a supporting actor Oscar and friendships with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Landau, 64, also teaches at the Actors' Studio West; his students have included Jack Nicholson and Oliver Stone.

CAREERIST: "I'm certainly not going to play any of Matt Damon's roles in the future. But he will eventually grow into mine, since he'll be around for a long time."

COOL HEADS: "What I liked about Matt was during the Golden Globes and Oscar time, the peripheral stuff didn't get in his way. So often with young actors, the press and acclaim starts to be dominant and the work goes downhill. Not going to happen with Matt Damon or ["Rounders" co-star] Ed Norton."

DEALS: "I've got a production company with two partners, Firestorm Pictures. We're doing the life of Lord Byron soon. What's happened is you can either make a low-budget movie, a million or so, or you do $80-million movies. But we think you can get an awful lot on the screen for $15 million if you're intelligent."

NO MIDDLE MAN: "I can take scripts directly to actors. Agents don't like to hear that. But I've got a lot of friends

and don't have to wait two months to hear back. Here, an actor can say yes or no quickly and we can move on. Otherwise, everything's down to a snail's pace."

HOLLYWOOD POLITICS: "Agents have enormous power that studios relinquished to them. The studios, when I first came to Hollywood, that's where the power was. . . . Now it's turned around. Pictures are packaged and cast by agents."

BUSY MAN: "I'm in 'Joyride,' where three young kids hijack me. Midge Sanford and Sarah Pillsbury, who did 'How to Make an American Quilt,' produced. And I did Ron Howard's 'edTV'; I play Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson's stepfather. I'm going to do 'Pinnochio 2' and 'Carlo's Wake' and 'Solid Oak,' a three-character movie with Billy Zane and Rob Schneider."

PROUD PAPA: "My daughter Juliet's a terrific actor. She's on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' And my other daughter, Susie, was a producer on Francis Ford Coppola's 'Dracula.' A wonderful writer and producer. My kids are two of the nicest people I ever met, and credit my ex-wife [Barbara Bain] for that."

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