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Martin Landau, Oscar Winner for ‘Ed Wood,’ Passes Away at Age 89

Martin Landau
Jonathan Leibson/Stringer, Getty Images

This just isn’t fair. Only hours after we found out that horror icon George Romero had passed away, we’ve also learned that the world has lost veteran character actor Martin Landau at the age of 89. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, Landau passed away unexpectedly after a short illness, leaving behind a legacy of television and film work that any actor would be proud to call their own. From his breakout role in North by Northwest to his regular work with Tim Burton, Landau has been a versatile and beloved character for decades. He will be missed.

Name a popular television series from the 1960s or 1970s and you’ll find Martin Landau. BonanazaThe Man From U.N.C.L.E. The Twilight ZoneMission: Impossible. For years, Landau was a regular guest star on some of television’s most popular shows, before finally transitioning into his well-known status as an elder statesman of Hollywood by the 1980s.  Over the next 20 years, Landau would be nominated for Best Supporting Actor on three separate occasions: once in 1989 for Tucker: The Man and His Dream, once in 1990 for Crimes and Misdemeanors, and once more for 1995 for Ed Wood.

It was Landau’s win with Ed Wood, however, that really cemented his legacy as an actor. Landau’s Bela Lugosi remains an astonishingly good performance to this day, with Landau faithfully capturing both Lugosi’s unparalleled star power and his self-destructive streak. There’s sadness in Landau’s Lugosi, bitterness that he was never able to improve upon his signature role in Dracula, but there’s also pride in the work’s career. His relationship with Johnny Depp’s Wood is undeniably the highpoint of each actor’s career, and if there’s any upside in losing Landau today, it’ll be that a new generation will discover his performance (and hopefully, by extension, his entire body of work).

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