'Mission Impossible' actor Martin Landau dies aged 89

'Mission Impossible' actor Martin Landau dies aged 89

Martin Landau, a talented and prolific character actor who achieved TV stardom in "Mission: Impossible" and won an Oscar for his portrayal of a washed-up Bela Lugosi in the sweetly freakish 1994 film "Ed Wood", has died at age 89.

Landau died of "unexpected complications" on Saturday during a brief spell in a Los Angeles hospital, his publicist Dick Guttman said.

Landau won three Golden Globes and played a master of disguise in the original "Mission: Impossible" television series.

Though Martin Landau was a two-time Oscar nominee when Tim Burton tabbed him to play Bela Legosi in 1994's Ed Wood, he identified with the Hungarian horror has-been and the deliciously very bad 1950s director. "I told the picture editor I was going into the theater", Landau recalled in 1989.

Then, in 1994, he played Lugosi, the faded horror star - now elderly, poor and morphine-addicted - in Tim Burton's "Ed Wood".

Landau's acting career started in the 1950's and he received the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1998's Tucker: The Man and His Dream. He also had prominent roles in the first X-Files movie (as a paranoid scientist), Rounders (as a poker-playing law professor), and The Majestic (as a bereaved gold-star father who mistakes amnesiac Jim Carrey for his long-lost son).

A documentary titled "An Actor's Actor: The Life of Martin Landau" is also now being prepared.

After winning his Oscar, Landau gushed: "My God!"

Landau and Bain left the series in 1969 in a salary dispute. "I was doing lousy parts in lousy movies, mindless characters".

During the episode, Landau told stories about his early days as a struggling actor in New York City studying under the legendary Lee Strasberg and roaming the streets of the city with the likes of James Dean.

He also taught acting at the famed Actor's Studio, and at his death was serving as its artistic director, a post he shared with director Mark Rydell. His career included diverse roles in films, television and stage and was still going strong in the 2010s. He himself was born to a Jewish family on June 20, 1928, in Brooklyn, NY. Later, in a production of Middle Of The Night opposite Edward G. Robinson, Landau drew the eye Alfred Hitchcock, who was so impressed with Landau's performance that he cast him in a pivotal role in North By Northwest. On both shows, he co-starred with Barbara Bain, his wife from 1957 to 1993.

No one had directed him in several decades, he said, adding that he brought his ideas to a role. "I think he just could relate to it, and had been through enough ups and downs to understand Bela Lugosi", the Turner Classic Movies website quoted Burton as saying about Landau.