Belfast Telegraph

TV and movie veteran Martin Landau dead at 89

The film star picked up an Oscar for his role as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood.

Oscar winner Martin Landau has died, aged 89.

The Ed Wood star passed away in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon (15Jul17), according to the actor's representative.

"We are overcome with sadness to report the death of iconic actor Martin Landau on July 15th, 2017 at 1.30pm at UCLA Medical Center, where he succumbed to unexpected complications during a short hospitalisation," the rep says. "He had just celebrated his 89th birthday."

Landau appeared in cult Alfred Hitchcock movie North by Northwest - his first film role in 1959, Cleopatra, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Nevada Smith, but he made his name on TV in the series Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999.

He landed Oscar nods for 1988's Tucker: The Man and His Dream and Woody Allen's Crimes & Misdemeanors, and won an Academy Award for portraying horror movie icon Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's weird and wonderful 1994 film Ed Wood.

Landau was born in Brooklyn in 1928 and gave up his job as a New York Daily News cartoonist to become an actor in his early 20s. He famously became good friends with tragic movie star James Dean and briefly dated Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, and studied under drama guru Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in the Big Apple, alongside Steve McQueen.

He made his name in theatre, starring in Broadway plays Goat Song and Stalag 17, among others, and won acclaim for his role in a touring production of Middle of the Night, opposite Edward G. Robinson.

It was in this drama that he was discovered by Hitchcock, who cast him as a killer, who falls to his death off Mount Rushmore, in North by Northwest.

Landau also famously turned down the role of Mr. Spock in Star Trek - a role which went to Leonard Nimoy, who also replaced the late star on Mission: Impossible.

In a 2011 TV interview, he said, "I turned down Star Trek. It would’ve been torturous. I would’ve probably died playing that role. I mean, even the thought of it now upsets me.

"It was the antithesis of why I became an actor. I mean, to play a character that Lenny (Nimoy) was better suited for, frankly, a guy who speaks in a monotone who never gets excited, never has any guilt, never has any fear or was affected on a visceral level. Who wants to do that?”

In one of his final films, The Last Poker Game, Martin played an elderly Casanova and took part in his first sex scenes with his movie wife Ann Marie Shea and a volunteer at his character's nursing home, played by Pamela Dubin.

His director, Howard Weiner, told WENN, "Martin asked a lot of questions and wanted to know if he was going to have to take off his shirt, which he doesn't, but he's an amazing actor and I established trust with him and he was game.

"I think he enjoyed the challenge. It's not something that someone at his age would get to play again. He may have done it younger but not at this age."

The Last Poker Game was released in April (17), and Landau has two other movies still in production - Without Ward and Nate and Al.

As well as acting, he returned to the Actors Studio to share his gift as a director and teacher, helping to advise and guide the likes of Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. A documentary about his life, An Actor's Actor: The Life of Martin Landau, is in the works.

The veteran was married to his Space: 1999 and Mission: Impossible co-star Barbara Bain from 1957 to 1993. The couple shared daughters Susie and Juliet.

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