If anyone was destined to work with movie sound, it was Karen Baker Landers. “I’ve always loved sound,” says the Academy Award winner. “When I was very young, my parents bought me a handheld tape recorder, and I would walk around the house and record sounds and try to tell stories with just sound. I’d see if anybody in my family could figure out what story I was telling.”
Later she even snuck a tape recorder into “Fright Night” to record the dialogue. “They didn’t have VHS, you couldn’t get a copy. I remember just wanting to hear the dialogue over and over again.”
More genre films grabbed her attention as she was growing up: “The Time Machine” and “The Birds” were big influences. The first “Rocky,” with its cheering crowds and thundering punches, made her realize she might find a career in sound. “That was the first and last film where I ever stood up in the theater and cheered,” she says.
Today Baker Landers is one of the top supervising sound editors in Hollywood. She is finishing the action-thriller “Eagle Eye” for DreamWorks after winning the Oscar for “The Bourne Ultimatum.” She shared the award with Per Hallberg, her partner at Soundelux for the last 22 years.
It’s been an issue in her career, she says, that it’s somewhat against type for a woman to be so interested in “gunshots and big explosions and car chases.”
“They think, ‘Well, yeah, you can do a romantic comedy,'” she says. “Well, I love a nice romantic comedy, and I love something like ‘Ray,’ a movie I did that was all about sound that made you feel emotional. But I also can sit in a big effects film, a big fight scene, and go nuts and love it.
“… You don’t have to prove it as a man; if you have a good resume, they’re not going to question it. But you do have to prove it as a woman.”
Role model: “My mom.”
Three things in life I can’t do without: “Family, friends, my husband.”
Most important issue facing Americans in this election year: “Our environment. … And then the war.”
Fave leisure activity: “Anything outdoors.”
Career mantra: “Stay interested and stay interesting.”