2017 claims yet another legend. Actor Martin Landau has passed, age 89.
For most old school sci-fi and film geeks like myself, the first roles that come to mind are those he did for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, Cleopatra, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Mission: Impossible, and Space: 1999. I always thought it was one of those interesting twists of fate where Landau was originally up for the role of Mr. Spock on Star Trek, which of course went to Leonard Nimoy because Landau turned it down, and then Nimoy took over the position as the Impossible Mission Force’s master of disguise once Landau left the M:I and Trek was cancelled. Once you know this sort of thing, you can’t help but see these men walking parallel paths here and there.
Landau was one of those great character actors who could pretty much drop into any genre, in any medium, and he’d come across as completely natural, as though he simply stopped acting and just inhabited the role he assumed. Along those lines, his Oscar-winning performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood remains to this day as my absolute favorite Landau performance. He is the primary reason to see this movie.
As stunned as I am by this one (it’s always a sad surprise), Landau made his indelible mark, so he most definitely had a good run of it. He’ll be missed. My thoughts go out to those he left behind.