RIP Martin Landau

“What I do best, what I’ve always done best, is act.”

by Benjamín Harguidey

You’re done writing an obituary and then you realize that stars continue dying regardless. Academy Award winner Martin Landau (89) died Saturday due to “unexpected complications” following his hospitalization.

Born 1928, Landau started out as an editorial cartoonist for the New York Daily News before joining the Actors Studio in 1955, befriending rising stars Steve McQueen and James Dean. Following his Broadway debut, Landau’s first film role saw him playing a henchman to James Mason in Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest (1959).

Throughout the 60s he would go on to star in big budget epics such as Cleopatra (1963) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and land the role of Rollin Hand, AKA “The Man of a Million Faces”, in the spy fiction TV series Mission Impossible – a role specifically written for him. As a member of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF), Landau would earn several Emmy nominations as well as his first Golden Globe. Together with then wife and IMF alumnus Barbara Bain he would also head the 70s British sci-fi series Space: 1999.

Landau would later star in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), earning him his second Golden Globe and first Academy Award nomination, Woody Allen‘s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), earning him his second Academy Award nomination, and Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood (1994), for which he won his third Golden Globe and first Academy Award. In it he played horror icon Bela Lugosi, drawn out of retirement and oblivion by the upstart Z movie director Ed Wood.

Landau continued acting throughout the 90s and 2000s, partnering again with Burton for Sleepy Hollow (1999), 9 (200) and Frankenweenie (2012) and making Emmy Award-nominated appearences in TV series Without a Trace and Entourage. In all he appeared in over 170 movies and shows. His last film, The Last Poker Game, screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival. “It was unusual, and it kept unfolding in unpredictable ways,” remarked Landau of the role. A lot like his life.


BenjaBenjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).

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