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Martin Landau
Martin Landau-Mission-1968.jpg
Landau in 1968
Martin James Landau

(1928-06-20)June 20, 1928
Died July 15, 2017(2017-07-15) (aged 89)
Resting place Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, New York
Education James Madison High School
Alma mater Pratt Institute
  • Actor
  • acting coach
Years active 1955–2017
Known for Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Mission: Impossible
Space: 1999
North by Northwest
(m. 1957; div. 1993)
Children Susan Landau Finch
Juliet Landau

Martin James Landau (/ˈlænd/; June 20, 1928 – July 15, 2017) was an American actor, acting coach, producer, and editorial cartoonist. His career began in the 1950s, with early film appearances including a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) opposite Cary Grant. He played regular roles in the television series Mission: Impossible (1966–1969) and Space: 1999 (1975–1977).

Landau received the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, as well as his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988); he received his second Oscar nomination for his performance in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). His performance in the supporting role of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (1994) earned him an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe Award. He continued to perform in film and television, and headed the Hollywood branch of the Actors Studio until his death in July 2017.

Early life

Landau was born on June 20, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Selma (née Buchman) and Morris Landau. His family was Jewish. His father was an Austrian-born machinist who tried to rescue relatives from the Nazis.

After attending both James Madison High School and Pratt Institute, he found work at the New York Daily News. There he spent the next five years as an editorial cartoonist and worked alongside Gus Edson to produce the comic strip The Gumps. He quit the Daily News when he was 22 to concentrate on theater acting. "I told the picture editor I was going into the theater," he recalled. "I think he thought I was going to be an usher."

After auditioning for the Actors Studio in 1955, Landau and Steve McQueen were the only applicants accepted out of 500 who applied. While there, he trained under Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, and Harold Clurman, and eventually became an executive director with the Studio alongside Mark Rydell and Sydney Pollack.


1950s: Early roles, North by Northwest

North by Northwest movie trailer screenshot (25)
Cary Grant, James Mason, Eva Marie Saint, and Landau in North by Northwest

Influenced by Charlie Chaplin and the escapism of the cinema, Landau pursued an acting career. He attended the Actors Studio, becoming good friends with James Dean. He recalled, "James Dean was my best friend. We were two young would-be and still-yet-to-work unemployed actors, dreaming out loud and enjoying every moment ... We'd spend lots of time talking about the future, our craft and our chances of success in this newly different, ever-changing modern world we were living in."

In 1957, he made his Broadway debut in Middle of the Night. Landau made his first major film appearance in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) as Leonard, the right-hand man of a criminal portrayed by James Mason. He had featured roles in two 1960s epics, Cleopatra (1963) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and played a ruthless killer in the Western action adventure prequel Nevada Smith (1965) starring Steve McQueen.

1960s: Career breakthrough, Mission: Impossible

Martin Landau Rollin Hand Mission Impossible
Landau in his role as Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible

Landau played the supporting role of master of disguise Rollin Hand in the first three seasons of the US television series Mission: Impossible, from 1966 to 1969. Landau at first declined to be contracted by the show because he did not want it to interfere with his film career; instead, he was credited for "special guest appearances" during the first season. He became a full-time cast member in the second season, although the studio agreed to Landau's request, to contract him only on a year-by-year basis rather than the then-standard five years. The role of Hand required Landau to perform a wide range of accents and characters, from dictators to thugs, and several episodes had him playing dual roles—not only Hand's impersonation, but also the person whom Hand is impersonating. In the series Landau acted alongside his then-wife Barbara Bain, who won an Emmy for her performances each year for all three years. He was replaced by Leonard Nimoy, playing a very similar role but not exactly the same character, for the next two seasons of the series after Landau and Bain left the show.

1970s: Television appearances

Martin Landau Peter Falk Colombo 1973
Landau with Peter Falk in Columbo in 1973

In 1973, Landau guest-starred in the Columbo episode Double Shock alongside Peter Falk. Landau plays twin brothers involved in the murder of their rich uncle. The episode also costarred Dabney Coleman, Julie Newmar, and Jeanette Nolan.

In the mid-1970s, Landau and Bain returned to TV in the British science-fiction series Space: 1999 produced by Gerry Anderson in partnership with Sylvia Anderson, and later with Fred Freiberger. Critical response to Space: 1999 was unenthusiastic during its original run, and it was cancelled after two seasons. Landau was critical of the scripts and storylines, especially during the series' second season, but praised the cast and crew. He later wrote forewords to Space: 1999 co-star Barry Morse's theatrical memoir Remember with Advantages (2006) and Jim Smith's critical biography of Tim Burton. Following Space: 1999, Landau appeared in supporting roles in a number of films and TV series. He appeared in low-budget genre pictures, such as the science fiction films Without Warning (1981) and The Being (1983) or the horror film Alone in the Dark (1982). He appeared in roles in, among others, the TV film The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981), which co-starred Bain in their final on-screen appearance together.

1990s: Oscar win, Ed Wood

Martin Landau nineties
Landau at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival

He won an Oscar for Ed Wood (1994), a biopic in which Landau plays actor Bela Lugosi. Landau researched the role of Lugosi by watching many old Lugosi movies and studying Lugosi's Hungarian accent, which contributed to Lugosi's decline in acting. "I began to respect this guy and pity him," said Landau. "I saw the humor in him. This, for me, became a love letter to him, because he never got a chance to get out of that. I got a chance to make a comeback in my career. And I'm giving him one. I'm giving him the last role he never got."

Landau also received a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Saturn Award for the role, as well as accolades from a number of critics' groups.

Martin Landau 2010
Landau at the "Night of 100 Stars" for the 82nd Academy Awards viewing party

Landau's film roles in the 1990s included a down-on-his-luck Hollywood producer in the comedy Mistress (1992) with Robert De Niro, and judges in the dramas City Hall (1995) with Al Pacino, Rounders (1998) with Matt Damon, and Ready to Rumble in 1999. He played Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996).

Landau provided the voice of Scorpion for the first two seasons of the 1990s Spider-Man television series. Landau left the series after two seasons when he won the Academy Award and lacked time for the series; Richard Moll was recast as Scorpion.

He played the part of Jacob, son of Isaac, in the TV miniseries Joseph, alongside Ben Kingsley as Potiphar and Paul Mercurio as Joseph.

2000–2017: Continued roles

He played a supporting role in The Majestic (2001), starring Jim Carrey. The film received mostly negative reviews, although one reviewer wrote that "the lone outpost of authenticity is manned by Martin Landau, who gives a heartfelt performance," as an aging father who believes that his missing son has returned from World War II.

In the early seasons of Without a Trace (2002–2009), Landau was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his portrayal of the Alzheimer's-afflicted father of FBI Special Agent in Charge Jack Malone, the series' lead character. In 2006, he made a guest appearance in the series Entourage as Bob Ryan, a washed-up but determined and sympathetic Hollywood producer attempting to relive his glory days, a portrayal that earned him a second Emmy nomination.

Landeau appeared in The Aryan Couple (2004 film), in which he played Joseph Krauzenberg, a very wealthy Hungarian Jewish industrial tycoon.

Landau appeared in the television film Have a Little Faith (2011) based on Mitch Albom's book of the same name, in which he played Rabbi Albert Lewis. In 2012, Landau voiced Mr. Rzykruski in the Tim Burton animated Disney film Frankenweenie. In 2015, Landau starred alongside Christopher Plummer in the film Remember. The film received critical praise, with reviewers lauding Landau's and Plummer's performlances.

In recognition of his services to the motion picture industry, Landau has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6841 Hollywood Boulevard.

Acting coach

Encouraged by his own mentor, Lee Strasberg, Landau also taught acting. Actors coached by him include Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston.

Personal life

Landau married actress and former co-star Barbara Bain on January 31, 1957. They had two daughters, Susan and Juliet. Landau and Bain divorced in 1993.


On July 15, 2017, Landau died at age 89 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, Los Angeles, California; he had been briefly hospitalized. The cause of death was hypovolemic shock brought on by internal bleeding and heart disease. Landau is buried at the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York.


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Results
1988 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Tucker: The Man and His Dream Nominated
1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors Nominated
1994 Ed Wood Won
1967 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Mission: Impossible Nominated
1968 Nominated
1969 Nominated
2004 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Without a Trace Nominated
2005 Nominated
2007 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Entourage Nominated
1967 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor - Television Series Drama Mission: Impossible Won
1988 Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Tucker: The Man and His Dream Won
1994 Ed Wood Won
1994 British Academy Film Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1994 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Supporting Actor Won

See also

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