Updated 7:05 p.m. ET.
Oscar-nominated actor Martin Landau has publicly addressed the days prior to his untimely death in Hollywood, saying, he was concerned about the safety of his fellow cast and crew on set.
“The studio wanted me to be ‘charismatic’ but not be too showy because I’m playing a violin,” Landau told The Guardian. “I said, ‘But what would be wrong with that? Wouldn’t I like to show off?’”
Landau also spoke of the natural inclination to pester the directors and producers of movie sets.
“The director gets a script one time and has to go from there, but actors have an instinct,” he said. “What’s useful is a problem child. Then the director gets starstruck.”
The longtime actor and critic of the movie industry, Martin Landau, died last Thursday at the age of 89. He was best known for his performance as the mysterious and formidable Dr. Max Fisher in the iconic 1994 movie “Titanic.”
The appearance earned Landau the second-highest Academy Award nomination of his career, despite the fact that he was almost unrecognizable with the smoothed and neatly parted coif and pewter skin.
His appearance was uncanny for those who had seen him in other roles throughout his career. He later remarked that he felt “like a rabbi at a funeral.”
“I know I shouldn’t be famous for the way I look, but I am,” he told The Guardian in 2001. “I’m proud of it and would give it all back to play the same role again.”
With his dark brown hair and heavy brows, Landau stood apart from his cast mates and set from the comfort of his typical demeanour — it was like coming across a deity suddenly, who not only possessed a great talent but that was also familiar.
His performance was a product of his years in the business.
“I probably play it younger than it was,” he said, “but I could still pull off that part even if I’d never done it before.”
The actor died from blood clots at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, only months after suffering a stroke.
Landau began his career in the 1950s appearing in such classic Hollywood movies as“Dr. Strangelove” and “North by Northwest.” He earned an Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in the 1987 crime drama “Not Another Teen Movie.”
A 1999 interview with Landau spoke of an early desire to give back to the industry. He saw friends who had had successes. “Who do I give it to,” he asked, “taken care of?”
“Theaters,” he was told.
But, he remarked, his character in “Nightmare on Elm Street” received more respect.
“I had a little brotha on the set, Fred Claus,” he said, speaking about the classic horror film in which he played a practical joker. “He said, ‘You’re a star. You mean all these people, you’re one of them.’”
Landau last worked in the recently completed “Annihilation,” a science fiction thriller directed by Alex Garland (“Ex Machina”) and released in 2017. In the film, Landau played a leader of an elite expedition team tasked with a top-secret mission. During the shoot, he developed laryngitis and suggested cutting the script several times, until Garland agreed.
“If he didn’t exist, I’d invent him,” Landau said, imagining the career of the character he once played. “Now I wonder, did he really exist? It would be fascinating to know, because he was someone who was more than his art.”