Martin Landau, who won the Oscar for Ed Wood and made his name in the TV series Mission: Impossible, has died in Los Angeles following complications during a hospital visit. He was 89.
Landau was born June 28, 1928, to Jewish parents in Brooklyn and worked as a newspaper cartoonist Billy Rose’s syndicated column Pitching Horseshoes and assisted Gus Edson on the comic strip The Gumps. Despite being offered promotion the call of entertainment became too strong to resist and he worked on a number of roles in theatre before auditioning for The Actors Studio along with 2000 others which included Steve McQueen and they were the only two to be admitted in 1955.It was the same that Landau’s best friend James Dean was killed in a car crash.
Whilst training at the Actors Studio he met a blonde actress by the name of Marilyn Monroe and they struck up a relationship for several months which he chose to end unable to cop with her insecurities.
In film he got his big break in film when h was spotted by Alfred Hitchcock in a theatre play and was cast as the villainous James Woods’ lieutenant Leonard in the directors North By Northwest a role which he altered by making the character gay.
He went on to play heavies in such films as the disastrous Cleopatra, as well as The Greatest Story Ever Told. But it was with the 1960s TV spy series Mission: Impossible, starring opposite his then wife Barbara Bain who he had married in 1957 that he really found fame. The series went on to film 70 episodes after which he left due to a disagreement over a contract. He appeared in other TV shows and famously turned down the role of Spock in Star Trek, which eventually went to Leonard Nimoy
By the mid seventies he and his wife moved to the UK to star in Space 1999 which ran for four years but left the show feeling that its topicality was being abandoned for silly plots. After this he found himself in the wilderness appearing in instantly forgettable films until Francis Ford Coppolla cast him in Tucker: the man and his dreams. The film flopped but he earned himself a an Oscar nomination. It also bought him to the attention of Woody Allen who cast him in a lad role in his excellent Crimes and Misdemeanours earning him another Oscar nomination. It was one fo the few films that Woody Allen allowed an actor to influence how the character had been written and it paid off. He would finally win an Oscar as Bela Lugosi for Tim Burtons’ Ed Wood and he would reunite with the doctor some years later for the animated Frankenweenie.
Landau had been married to Barbara Bain since 1957 but in 1993 they divorced. He had been hospitalized after suffering complications from an unspecified illness and passed away on 15th July 2017,