WESTWOOD—Actor Martin Landau, known for his roles in the 1960s television series “Mission: Impossible” and the film “Ed Wood,” died on Saturday, July 15, at the age of 89. He died of “unexpected complications” during a brief stay at UCLA Medical Center, according to his publicist, Dick Guttman.
“We are overcome with sadness to report the death of iconic actor Martin Landau,” the statement read.
Born on June 20, 1928 in Brooklyn, Landau worked as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News at the age of 17. When he was 22, he decided to pursue acting. In 1955, he and Steve McQueen were the only two selected out of 2,000 actors who auditioned for Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. During his time there, Landau became friends with actor James Dean and dated actress Marilyn Monroe.
In 1959, Landau made his film debut as Lieutenant Marshall in “Pork Chop Hill.” Later that year, he gained recognition for his portrayal of the villain Leonard in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.” In 1960, he starred as the master of disguise Rollin Hand in the CBS television series “Mission: Impossible,” which ran from 1966-1973. Though he initially appeared as a guest star, he went on to star in three seasons of the show, alongside his then-wife, Barbara Bain. He earned three Emmy Award nominations for his portrayal and won a Golden Globe Award in 1968. In 1969, Landau and Bain left the series after its third season due to a contract dispute.
In 1975, the couple co-starred in the British science-fiction television series “Space: 1999,” which was canceled after two seasons. Landau took on numerous supporting roles in films and TV series, including “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” in 1981, co-starring with Bain for the last time before their divorce in 1993. In 1988, he appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s biographical film “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar Award and won a Golden Globe Award. He earned his second Oscar nomination for his performance as a philandering doctor in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” in 1989.
In 1994, Landau received an Academy Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Hungarian-American “Dracula” actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” He provided the voice of Scorpion in the animated “Spider-Man” series in 1994 and appeared in films such as “City Hall” in 1995 alongside Al Pacino, and “Rounders” in 1998 with Matt Damon. He took on the role of the woodcarver Geppetto in “The Adventures of Pinocchio” in 1996 and its 1999 sequel.
In 2001, he starred alongside Jim Carrey in the romantic comedy film “The Majestic.” From 2004 to 2009, he appeared in the CBS drama series “Without a Trace” as Frank Malone, the Alzheimer’s-afflicted father of FBI Agent Jack Malone, for which he earned an Emmy Award nomination. He starred as Rabbi Albert Lewis in the television film “Have a Little Faith” in 2011, based on author Mitch Albom’s novel.
He appeared in the HBO series “Entourage” from 2006 to 2008 and its film adaptation in 2015 as Bob Ryan, an aging movie producer. In 2013, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in recognition of his achievements. In addition to acting, he served as an artistic director for Actors Studio West, where he was a mentor for actors including Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. A documentary about his life, titled “An Actor’s Actor: The Life of Martin Landau,” is in the works.
Landau is survived by his daughters Susie Landau Finch and Juliet Landau, from his marriage to former co-star Bain; sons-in-law Roy Finch and Deverill Weekes; sister Elinor Schwartz; granddaughter Aria; and godson Dylan.