LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Veteran actor Martin Landau, whose versatile screen career stretched from the 1960s TV series "Mission: Impossible" to his Oscar-winning turn as Bela Lugosi in "Ed Wood," has died at 89, his publicist said Sunday.
Brooklyn-born Landau died Saturday of unexpected complications during a hospital stay in Los Angeles, according to a statement issued by publicist Dick Guttman.
"We are overcome with sadness to report the death of iconic actor Martin Landau," said the statement. "He had just celebrated his 89th birthday."
Screenwriter Joss Whedon said Landau’s turn as philandering eye doctor and brother of Jerry Orbach in Woody Allen’s 1989 "Crimes and Misdemeanors" was "perfect."
"RIP Martin Landau," he added on Twitter.
Landau got his start on Broadway in the 1950s, before a 1959 film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller "North by Northwest."
"I had tea with Mr Hitchcock one afternoon and asked him how he could have cast me in that part, because what I was playing in (the play) ‘Middle of the Night’ was so different," Landau told the Los Angeles Times last year.
"‘My dear Mah-tin,’" Landau said in impersonating the British filmmaker, "‘you have a circus going on inside you. If you can do that part in the play, you can do this little trinket of mine.’"
Landau’s film roles ranged from the grand to the quirky, from "Cleopatra," to "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and "Nevada Smith."
That was before he met with massive success playing the master of disguise Rollin Hand in the "Mission: Impossible" TV series -- in which his wife Barbara Bain also starred. He was nominated for three Emmys and a Golden Globe in 1968.
Landau also starred alongside Bain in the 1970s in the British science fiction series "Space: 1999." The couple had two daughters together -- actress and ballerina Juliet Landau and producer-director Susan Landau Finch -- before divorcing in 1993.
Lean years, then comeback
He made a strong screen comeback the following decade, starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" the following year. He earned Oscar nominations for both.
But it was not until 1994 that he scooped up the Best Supporting Oscar playing declining horror film star Lugosi in his poor, elder years as a morphine addict in Tim Burton’s "Ed Wood." He also scooped up a slew of other awards for the role.
"It’s weird," Landau recalled about the role in a 1994 interview with the Times.
"Tim called me out of the blue. He said, ‘You’ve worked with everybody, you’ve done very good movies with major directors, you’ve done tacky, rotten movies with awful directors. You have a presence and there are a lot of things that coincide (with Bela).’
"That’s how he came to me. I was shocked. He said, ‘You popped into my head and I couldn’t get you out.’"
In recent years, Landau starred on television hits "Entourage" and "Without a Trace."
His leading role with Paul Sorvino in the upcoming "The Last Poker Game premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
"It is being hailed as a major comedy-drama relating to the challenges and complexities of old age but emphasizing that life must be lived fully at any age," his publicist said.
Landau, who had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was of Jewish heritage, got the Israel Film Festival’s Career Achievement Award in 2013.