Landau, a native of Brooklyn, began his career as a cartoonist at the New York Daily News before training at the Actors Studio. After debuting in Pork Chop Hill, Landau gained attention for a scene-stealing role as gay henchman Leonard in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. That got him a larger role in Cleopatra, though much of his part was cut when the financially disastrous epic finally limped its way on screen in 1963. Landau had better luck in television, where he played master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible co-starring with his then-wife, actress Barbara Bain. The show earned him three Emmy nominations, but he and Bain both left in 1969.
In the 1970s, Landau’s film roles tapered out, although he and his wife co-starred on British TV show Space: 1999. He filled the gap with an increasing number of TV movies—Variety names The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island as a particular lowlight—and spent the 1980s appearing in smaller films and teaching acting. That decade also saw his marriage to Barbara Bain end in divorce.
Landau’s career renaissance began with his role in Francis Ford Copolla’s Tucker: The Man and his Dream in 1988, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Crimes and Misdemeanors brought him another nomination the next year, and he finally won in 1995 for his brilliant performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. The official YouTube clip fades out before the part of his acceptance speech in which Gil Cates brought up the music before Landau could thank Lugosi:
After Ed Wood, Landau worked steadily, with memorable roles on The X-Files, Entourage, and Without a Trace. More recently, he appeared in Atom Egoyan’s 2015 Holocaust thriller Remember. He is survived by his sister; his daughters, producer Susan Landau Finch and actress Juliet Landau; and one granddaughter.