Home / World / Oscar-winner Martin Landau, who starred in 'Ed Wood,' 'North By Northwest' and 'Entourage,' dies at 89 – Los Angeles Times

Oscar-winner Martin Landau, who starred in 'Ed Wood,' 'North By Northwest' and 'Entourage,' dies at 89 – Los Angeles Times

Martin Landau, the Oscar-winning veteran who appeared in classic films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest” and starred in the “Mission: Impossible” television series in the 1960s, has died. He was 89.

Landau died Saturday at UCLA Medical Center, where he experienced “unexpected complications” during a short hospitalization, his publicist confirmed.

“We are overcome with sadness to report the death of iconic actor Martin Landau,” a statement said.

He won his Academy Award for his portrayal of washed-up Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.”

The next year, he was lauded for his role as the philandering Judah Rosenthal, the doctor who has his mistress murdered and gets away with it, in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989). He was nominated for his second consecutive supporting actor Oscar.

“In any age range, there are some limitations in terms of good, good parts,” Landau said in 1992. After the Oscar nods, the “good, good parts” for actors in their late 50s and early 60s came his way. However, many of his paychecks came from cheap, direct-to-video movies and overseas television. Which, coincidentally, was one of the reasons why director Tim Burton wanted him to play morphine-addicted “Dracula” star Lugosi in 1994’s “Ed Wood,” starring Johnny Depp as the memorably inept, low-budget filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr. (Landau’s daughter Juliet also appeared in the film.)

“It’s weird,” Landau told The Times about Lugosi in 1994. “Tim called me out of the blue. He said, ‘You’ve worked with everybody, you’ve done very good movies with major directors, you’ve done tacky, rotten movies with awful directors. You have a presence and there are a lot of things that coincide [with Bela].’ That’s how he came to me. I was shocked. He said, ‘You popped into my head and I couldn’t get you out.’”

The 63-year-old Landau played the aging 1930s star as a colorful, feisty old man crippled by a profound sadness.Denise Di Novi, who produced the film with Burton, said she realized how good Landau’s performance was going to be “in the first screen test, the makeup test. He gave a look to the camera, said a line of dialogue, and I was ecstatic. It gave me shivers. From that first makeup test, he was Bela. He found a niche that made him sympathetic, complex, funny, tragic — he brought it so many colors.”

Despite the fact that Bela Lugosi Jr. decried the film’s portrayal of his father, Landau said: “I don’t ridicule him. If anything, it’s almost a love letter to him. I never talked to his son, and from what I hear, he did not approve of some of the language. But that’s not the point. I don’t think I demean him at all. I salute him.”

For the role, Landau finally won the supporting actor Oscar and his third Golden Globe Award. During his Oscar speech, he hit the podium and shouted “No!” when the orchestra attempted to truncate his speech. He also received top honors from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics for his performance.

He followed up his Oscar win playing woodcarver Gepetto in 1995’s “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” which landed a sequel in 1999. He also voiced Woodrow Wilson in the mini-series “1914-1918,” Scorpion in the animated “Spider-Man,” and #2 in the animated “9.” He reunited with Burton in 2012 to voice science teacher Mr. Rzykruski in “Frankenweenie.”

In 1998, he starred in “Rounders,” playing poker hustler Matt Damon’s professor-mentor, mirroring his real-life role with young film talent: “Ed Wood” also laid the foundation for his friendships with Depp and Burton.

In 2000, Landau, who is of Jewish descent, played Abraham, father of the Israelites, in “In the Beginning,” which chronicled the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus. Jacqueline Bisset played his wife, Sarah.

“I’ll tell you something interesting: I haven’t been directed by anybody in probably 30 or 35 years, whether it be Francis Ford Coppola or Tim Burton,” Landau said in 2016. “I come in with stuff, and I have ideas. I think if they don’t like what I’m doing, they’ll say something. They don’t say anything. So I hit the mark, say the words and get the hell out of there.”t.”

After a few TV movies, he took on meatier small screen roles in the quickly canceled “The Evidence.” In “Without a Trace” he played Frank Malone, Jack’s (Anthony LaPaglia) Alzheimer’s-riddled father from 2004 to 2009. He also found a new audience playing the memorably out of touch producer Bob Ryan, a parody of legendary “Chinatown” and “Godfather” producer Robert Evans, in HBO’s “Entourage” series and subsequent film.

In 2008, he produced and costarred with fellow Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn in the December-December romance “Lovely, Still.” He did a short stint as on ABC’s 2011 series “Have a Little Faith” playing a beloved rabbi to writer Mitch Albom. In 2015, he costarred with Christopher Plummer in the thriller “Remember,” playing an Auschwitz survivor out to take down the man responsible for killing his family.

Landau received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was honored with the Israel Film Festival’s Career Achievement Award in 2013.

As artistic director Actors Studio West, his students have included Jack Nicholson and Oliver Stone.

“I take the Friday session every week,” he said. “The people whom I teach are teachers. What I am really doing is igniting something that’s going to stay.”

Landau is survived by daughters Juliet Landau and Susan Landau Finch.

Times staff writer Tre’vell Anderson contributed to this report.

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nardine.saad@latimes.com

Twitter: @NardineSaad

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