Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1931 (some sources say 1928), Martin Landau worked as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News before becoming an actor. In 1955, he joined the Actors Studio, where he studied with Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan. He made his film debut in 1959 and went on to appear in Cleopatra (1963) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). In 1966, Landau found fame as a cast member of the television spy drama Mission: Impossible. He went on to appear in such films as Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). In 1994, Landau won an Academy Award for his work on Ed Wood.
Veteran character actor Martin Landau was born on June 20, 1931 (some sources say 1928), in Brooklyn, New York. He first dreamed of becoming an artist. After graduating from Brooklyn's James Madison High School, Landau studied at the Pratt Institute and the Art Students League.
Around the age of 17, Landau landed a job with the New York Daily News as a cartoonist and illustrator. He made the switch to acting in his early twenties. As Landau explained to Back Stage West, "I was being groomed to be the next theater cartoonist. But when I looked around the office and saw guys 30 and 40 years my senior doing exactly what I was doing ... I knew this wasn't for me."
In the mid-1950s, Landau won a coveted spot to train at the Actors Studio in New York City. He was one of two actors accepted at the time—the other new member was Steve McQueen. Through the Actors Studio, Landau honed his craft under the guidance of Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan among others. He later became a teacher at the studio and has served as the co-creative director of the program's West Coast branch for many years.
In 1957, Landau got his first major break with the help of Paddy Chayefsky, who recommended the young actor for a touring production of his play Middle of the Night. After that tour, Landau landed some television work. He also married actress Barbara Bain around this time.
Landau made the leap to the big screen in 1959, appearing in the war drama Pork Chop Hill with Gregory Peck. That same year, Landau played a menacing bad guy in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant. He also appeared in the 1963 historic epic Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Two years later, Landau played a villainous character in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).
In 1966, Landau had a career breakthrough with the television spy drama Mission: Impossible. He played master of disguise Rollin Hand on the popular series, which also featured Peter Graves and his wife, Barbara Bain. The show made Landau a bona fide star. He stayed with the show for three seasons; he and his wife both left the series in 1969.
Landau found his Mission: Impossible image hard to shake for many years, which limited the types of roles he was offered. In the mid-1970s, he landed another TV series, the syndicated science-fiction show Space: 1999. Produced in Britain, Space: 1999 also gave the actor another chance to work with his wife. The series has been a cult classic since its initial release.
Following Space: 1999, Martin Landau appeared in a number of lackluster film and TV projects. His career seemed at an all-time low in 1981, during which time he appeared in a role in the TV movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gillian's Island. By the end of the 1980s, however, Landau had re-established himself as a serious character actor. He received back-to-back Academy Award nominations, in 1988 and 1989, for his work on Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream and Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Landau finally took home the golden statue in 1994, for his portrayal of actor Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. Johnny Depp stars as famed director Ed Wood in this film, directed by Tim Burton. Since then, Landau has continued to work steadily in film and TV. He appeared on the 2006 TV series The Evidence and had recurring roles on Entourage and Without a Trace. In 2013, Landau played J. Howard Marshall II, the wealthy elderly husband of Anna Nicole Smith in the TV movie The Anna Nicole Smith Story.
Landau was married to actress Barbara Bain from 1957 to 1993. They have two daughters. Before marrying Bain, he dated Marilyn Monroe for a time. Landau was also a friend of James Dean.
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