AJFF Remembers: Martin Landau


This past month, veteran Jewish actor, Martin Landau passed away at the age of 89. For our part, we wanted to personally take a look at some of our favorite roles in a career that spanned seven decades.

Much has been written about Landau, deservedly so, and we encourage you to take a look at any one of these write-ups and many more.

There's CNN, The Guardian, one from NPR, and then industry press: The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Vanity Fair.

For our part, we wanted to personally take a look at some of our favorite roles and why.

Landau received some of the best reviews of his career in this 2015 film, which was also featured as the Opening Night film for the 2016 AJFF. Said the actor of the role, "When Atom sent the script to me, we hadn’t worked together in 28 years, and I read the script and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The ending actually captured me in a certain way and I kept replaying it in my head. It was a no-brainer is what I’m saying basically. I had to do this."

Max and Helen
To take on the role of Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor, Nazi hunter, and writer, Simon Wiesenthal, based on the book he authored, Landau spent one day with him saying he was, "just trying to absorb him, his essence, his dogmatism, his huge emotionality. In this instance, because he is somewhat known, a historical figure, I didn't want to do an imitation of him, but I wanted to capture his essence. I tried to crawl into his skin in a certain way."

Though Landau worried if he had done Wiesenthal justice, his fears were soon assauged when he receieved a call from Wiesenthal the day after the film aired with Wiesenthal telling him, "I have something to say to you. You were perfect. That's it. "

Ed Wood
For this 1994 film, Landau won an Academy Award. In order to imitate Bela Lugosi's voice and mannerisms, Landau watched approximately 35 Lugosi movies, and purchased Hungarian language tapes. With the latter, he would "literally practice the language and see where the tongue would go." When Hungarian-born director Peter Medak saw the film, he called Landau to praise him. Medak said that Landau's accent sounded spot-on, because, "You are not an actor trying to do a Hungarian accent, you're a character trying not to do (one)."

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Landau shines in this 1989 American existential comedy-drama film written and directed by Woody Allen, and stars alongside Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Orbach, Alan Alda, Sam Waterston and Joanna Gleason. Landau had a great working relationsip with Allen, which he describes in this 1990 interview.

North by Northwest
Landau was scene stealing in his first film role in this 1959 American thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and more than holds his own with than more established actors, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. He was also fearless as he describes in this 2012 interview describing his character choice to portray his character, Leonard, as gay and how that direcly played into his choices for role. 

The Last Poker Game
We are among the many looking forward to seeing one of Landau's final roles as Dr. Abe Mandelbaum, who finds himself at an “old folk’s home” late in life, unable to care for his wife and her deteriorating health. Landau spoke about the film, which had its World Premiere at Tribeca earlier this year.