THE ACTORS’ ACTOR
Remembering Martin Landau, Ed Wood Oscar-winner and drama teacher to the greats
Receiving his Best supporting Actor Oscar for Ed Wood, Martin Landau (1928-2017) thanked his director tim Burton for giving him “the part of my life”. having trained at the Method-orientated Actors studio alongside steve Mcqueen (he later taught Jack nicholson and Anjelica huston there), Landau went deep to play Béla Lugosi, caning 35 of the washed-up horror great’s movies to catch the tragicomic desperation of a man addicted to both morphine and his own legend. it was a high-water mark for both actor and director.
Landau’s career hit its stride with hitchcock’s North By Northwest, humanising a sadistic heavy by adding a waft of homoerotic attraction toward spymaster James Mason. television would bring him fame. he turned down spock, but embodied the deadpan cold War fun of Mission:
Impossible, marrying co-star Barbara Bain. they’d pair up again in gerry Anderson’s cult sci-fi Space: 1999.
Age would bring deserved recognition. At 60, he picked up the first of three Oscar nods in Francis Ford coppola’s Tucker: The
Man And His Dreams. summoning his dark side to play a homicidal ophthalmologist in
Crimes And Misdemeanors for his second, his calculating air landed to perfection. Following his win for Ed Wood, he worked alongside Al Pacino and harrison Ford, and reunited with Burton for Sleepy Hollow and Frankenweenie. his fierce dedication to his craft never waned.
Landau called his late success “a gift”, but in seven decades in the business he found subtle shades in everything he did. he was an actor of rare poignancy, poker-faced humour and obvious intelligence. Few acting lives have been longer — or fuller.