Longevity in Hollywood so rarely happens anymore. And usually when it does, one has to be a man in order to achieve it. Martin Landau was just such a man. His early beginnings orbiting the world of entertainment, surprisingly, however, did not commence with film, but rather, as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News. It was ultimately his Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo love of escapism that led him to study acting at the Actors Studio, where he would befriend James Dean, a fellow actor “dreaming out loud.”
When Landau finally caught his big break in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, he seemed to be briefly stalled in the world of TV afterward until another role in a major movie–1963’s Cleopatra. His TV career continued to escalate thereafter, playing characters on such 1960s staples as The Twilight Zone and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. By 1966, he had secured one of his most iconic TV roles as Rollin Hand–a master of disguise (much like Landau himself)–on Mission: Impossible.
Throughout the 1970s, Landau returned to his pursuit of film, though he didn’t receive quite the same acclaim as he did for television work. It wouldn’t be until the 80s that he was given his silver screen due with an Academy Award nomination for Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream. His resurgence continued in the 90s with roles that proved his knack for self-parody and an ability to own so-called “dinosaur” status by Hollywood standards.
This embracing of his age was at its most relevant in 1994’s Ed Wood. As Bela Lugosi, Landau played the part of the fallen silver screen icon to perfection. Hence, his win of an Oscar. His commitment to studying the accent of Lugosi by watching twenty-five of his film revealed Landau’s persistent and unrelenting commitment to the perfectionism required for any role worth slipping into. Most noticeably, his portrayal of Donald Blakemore in B*A*P*S showcased that Landau could even lend his sophistication and poise for comedic purposes.
In his later years, Landau devoted more time to the endeavors that pertained to his acting coach duties. A true original in the acting game, Landau’s many lives and reinventions over time proved that it’s always possible to stay relevant when you’ve got the talent to do so.