Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Martin Landau

Martin Landau was a highly acclaimed actor known for his versatility, talent, and longevity in the film and television industry. Throughout his career, Landau brought depth and nuance to his performances, captivating audiences with his ability to bring characters to life.

With a trademark voice, Landau was a beloved actor who left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.

Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Martin Landau.

Martin Landau was a former cartoonist

Before his successful acting career, Martin Landau began his artistic pursuits as a cartoonist for the New York Daily News, where he contributed to the newspaper strip “The Gumps.” His work on the strip helped to launch his career and paved the way for him to become a respected actor in Hollywood.

Although Landau was a talented cartoonist, he did not work on comic books, contrary to what many believed. In fact, there has been some confusion about him from articles that have mistakenly identified the actor as a comic book artist named Kenneth Landau.

martin landau cartoonist
A young Landau at his job as a cartoonist

However, the two individuals are unrelated, and Martin Landau never worked in the comic book industry.

Despite the confusion, Landau’s work as a cartoonist was a significant part of his artistic legacy. He was a skilled draftsman who had a unique ability to capture the essence of his subjects with a few lines and a sense of humor.

His work on “The Gumps” was well-received by readers, and it helped to establish him as a creative force in the world of art and entertainment.

Landau was a member of the Actors Studio

At 22, he was offered a promotion but chose to quit his job at the newspaper and focus on his acting career. He balanced twelve roles in summer stock theater in New England while auditioning for the Actors Studio in New York. Out of 2,000 applicants in 1955, Landau and Steve McQueen were the only two hopefuls accepted.

Landau became a long-time member of the prestigious studio dedicated to teaching and developing actors. He participated actively in the studio’s workshops and classes and often gave lectures on acting techniques. He also served as a mentor to younger actors, offering advice and guidance on their craft.

He was a close friend of James Dean’s

James Dean and Landau, two aspiring actors from very different backgrounds, became friends in the early 1950s in New York City while studying acting.

Dean had attended UCLA in California and had been mentored by James Whitmore before moving to New York to join the prestigious Actors Studio. On the other hand, Landau had been working as a political cartoonist in New York City before joining the Actors Studio.

Dean and his friend Martin Landau behind him
Dean and his friend Martin Landau behind him

Dean and Landau appeared in minor roles while honing their craft in New York City, and they partied together on Dean’s motorcycle. Eventually, all three – Dean, Landau, and Steve McQueen – moved to Hollywood, where they achieved success in their respective careers.

Landau dated Marilyn Monroe

After being accepted into the Actors Studio, Landau was taught by some of the most renowned acting coaches in the industry, including Lee Strasberg, Elia Kazan, and Harold Clurman. He immersed himself in the craft, absorbing everything he could from his instructors and fellow students.

Marilyn Monroe - Sitting 36x24 Photograph Art Print Poster

During his time at the Actors Studio, Landau met another budding actor who would become a Hollywood icon – Marilyn Monroe. The two began a relationship, but it was short-lived. Despite their shared passion for acting, Landau found Monroe to be a complex person and was often left baffled by her mood swings and frequent costume changes.

He struggled to keep up with her and ultimately found their relationship too difficult to maintain.

While their romantic relationship may not have lasted long, Landau remained close friends with Monroe until her untimely death in 1962.

He later remarked that her dedication to her craft and natural talent as an actress were unparalleled, and he considered her one of the most talented performers he had ever known.

Landau was a talented voice actor outside of the movies

Martin Landau was well-known for his voice-acting skills, which he used in various media, including video games, animated series, radio dramas, and documentaries.

His deep, rich voice added depth and nuance to his performances, bringing the characters he portrayed to live.

For example, he gave voice to Zeebo the Clown in the video game “Metal Gear Solid” and brought a comedic element to it. The franchise has a huge fan base, and Landau’s performance was highly praised.

In animated series like “Batman: The Animated Series,” he lends his voice to the character of Roland Daggett.

In radio dramas, his voice was ideal for bringing a sense of realism to the performances. Landau also frequently narrated documentaries, lending credibility to the subjects he covered.

Landau was a three-time Oscar nominee

Although probably most famous for his roles in “Mission Impossible” or “Space: 1999” alongside Barbara Bain, Landau was a highly-skilled big screen actor.

Throughout his career, he was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. Landau’s first nomination came in 1988 for his performance in “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” followed by nominations for “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989).

Ultimately, he won the award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s biopic “Ed Wood” in 1994.

It was a well-deserved win that capped off a long career full of memorable performances.

Landau was a talented painter and collector

Martin Landau’s passion for the arts extended beyond his acting career. He was a talented painter and spent much of his spare time honing his skills as an artist.

The works of the great masters deeply inspired him, and his paintings often reflected this influence. His style was eclectic and varied, ranging from abstract compositions to vivid, figurative works.

Art enthusiasts well received Landau’s paintings, and he was even invited to exhibit his work in galleries.

His artwork was exhibited in galleries, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Renaissance Fine Arts Gallery in Beverly Hills, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

He also participated in group shows, such as the Summer Exhibition at the New York Academy of Art and “Art to the Rescue” at the Avant Gallery in Miami.

Landau’s paintings were praised for their vivid use of color, expressive style, and technical skill, and he had a deep passion for both creating and collecting art.

In addition to creating his art, Landau was also an avid art collector. He deeply appreciated the work of other artists and amassed a collection of pieces by some of the most renowned figures in art history. He owned works by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and other iconic artists, and his collection was a testament to his love of the arts.

Although the actor sadly passed in 2017, Martin Landau’s impressive career spanned over five decades and left a lasting legacy in Hollywood. His memorable performances, awards, and contributions to the entertainment industry will never be forgotten.