It was only a couple hours ago that we learned the sad news that legendary director George A. Romero had passed away, but unfortunately the bad news keeps coming. Martin Landau, who was a star on both the big screen and the small, and won an Academy Award for his performance in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, has passed away at the age of 89.
According to Variety, the actor was admitted to the hospital at UCLA, and died following unspecified complications. He is survived by his two daughters, Susan Landau Finch and Juliet Landau.
Martin Landau has been acting since the early 1950s, making his professional acting debut on the sitcom The Goldbergs, starring Gertrude Berg and Eli Mintz. For years he primarily played bits on other programs, but first got the chance to work with a genius director when he played the menacing henchman Leonard in Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest. That job was followed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Cleopatra in 1963, but it was in 1966 that he started to become a household name, playing master of disguise Roland Hand on the Mission: Impossible television series.
As for his film career, however, it wasn't really until the latter half of his career that he really started to get big. In 1988, teaming up with Francis Ford Coppola for Tucker: The Man And His Dream earned Martin Landau his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor - and he got his second the very next year for his part in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. He missed out on those prizes to Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) and Denzel Washington (Glory), but a few years later he finally won. While he faced stiff competition from Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction), Chazz Palminteri (Bullets Over Broadway), Paul Scofield (Quiz Show) and Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump), the Oscars chose his performance as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood as the Best Supporting Actor performance of the year.
Frankly, it was one of the most well-earned Oscars of all time, as Martin Landau's turn in the 1994 Tim Burton movie truly is brilliant (and, at times, hilarious). You can get a taste of his brilliant performance in the Ed Wood clip below, but if you have not had a chance to watch this film recently (or ever), now is the perfect time to give it a watch.
Despite his advanced age, Martin Landau continued to work up until his death, and still has a couple projects in the pipeline. One is The Last Poker Game, a comedy/drama co-starring Paul Sorvino, and the other is a sci-fi/drama/romance titled Without Ward, starring Marguerite Moreau, Horld Perrineau, Alexis Dziena and James Duval.
The great news in all of this is that Martin Landau lived a long life producing great work, and those performances will live on forever. Help us celebrate the career of the Academy Award winner by hitting the comments below with your favorite turn of his.