Martin Landau 1928-2017

In the clip above, film historian Neal Gabler talks to Martin Landau in 2008. The actor does a great impression of Woody Allen and talks about the ambiguous sexuality of his character in North by Northwest (1959). Which obviously gives Landau a reason to imitate Alfred Hitchcock as well. We lost Martin Landau two days ago at the age of 89, and it was too soon.

Born in New York City, Landau started out as a cartoonist for a newspaper and worked on among other things the classic comic strip “The Gumps”. In the 1950s, he studied theater together with Steve McQueen and James Dean (becoming one of the latter’s best friends), and was trained by Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan. His first major role in a movie was as a villain in North by Northwest, but his breakthrough to a wider audience came on the TV series Mission: Impossible in the 1960s.

Throughout most of the ’70s and ’80s, Martin Landau found unremarkable work in movies and TV projects, but things changed in the late ’80s. He got an Oscar nomination for Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) and Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). The latter role was one of his best, in no small part thought the director, because Landau was born in Brooklyn and really understood the part.

Landau finally won the Oscar for Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994), where he played Bela Lugosi, seeing his win as sort of a triumph for Lugosi himself. Throughout the rest of his career, Landau was often seen as a supporting actor who could elevate any material, ultimately also winning three Golden Globes.

Joss Whedon and Edgar Wright found cool ways to honor Martin Landau on Twitter yesterday:

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