Martin Landau, the Oscar-winning Ed Wood actor who appeared in Crimes & Misdemeanors, North by Northwest and the Mission: Impossible TV series over a career that spanned over 50 years, died Saturday at the age of 89.
Landau died following “unexpected complications during a short hospitalization” at the UCLA Medical Center, his representative told The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor spent five years as a newspaper cartoonist in his native New York before deciding to focus on acting; As Landau often stated, he and Steve McQueen were notably the only two applicants accepted into the Actors Studio in 1955.
Four years later, Landau landed his breakout role as a henchman in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic North by Northwest, with Landau later revealing he “played the character gay,” a decision that Hitchcock “loved.”
A steady string of film and TV roles would follow before Landau – who infamously turned down the Spock role on Star Trek – would be cast as “master of disguise” Rollin Hand for four seasons of Mission: Impossible, where the actor met his wife, actress Barbara Bain. The couple divorced in 1993.
Inspired by his own time in the Actors Studio, Landau himself became an acting teacher, with Jack Nicholson notably one of his pupils. Landau was also a friend of James Dean and a one-time boyfriend of Marilyn Monroe, the Hollywood Reporter writes.
After appearing in the sci-fi series Space: 1999 with Bain for two seasons in the mid-Seventies, Landau saw his career lull for a decade until Francis Ford Coppola cast the actor in 1988’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Thanks to Tucker, Landau was soon cast by Woody Allen to play one of the leads in the director’s 1989 masterpiece Crimes and Misdemeanors, with Landau again nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.
Five years later, Landau would finally win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his brilliant portrayal of washed-up Dracula actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.
“Lugosi was fascinating to watch [on screen]. He had a palpable intensity and a presence that you can’t buy. But this fuckin’ town shat on him,” Landau told Entertainment Weekly in 1994. “And I can relate to that. I’ve seen it happen a lot. I’ve seen it happen to me.”
Over the next 20 years, Landau would appear in films like The X-Files, Rounders, EDtv and The Majestic as well as reoccurring roles on Without a Trace and Entourage; Landau netted Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor for the latter two television roles.