LOS ANGELES—Martin Landau, the chameleon-like actor who gained fame as the crafty master of disguise in the 1960s TV show Mission: Impossible, then capped a long and versatile career with an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of aging horror-movie star Bela Lugosi in 1994’s Ed Wood, has died. He was 89.
Landau died last Saturday of unexpected complications during a short stay at UCLA Medical Center, his publicist Dick Guttman said.
Mission: Impossible, which also starred Landau’s wife, Barbara Bain, became an immediate hit upon its debut in 1966. It remained on the air until 1973, but Landau and Bain left at the end of the show’s third season, amid a financial dispute with the producers. They starred in the British-made sci-fi series Space: 1999 from 1975 to 1977.
Landau might have been a superstar but for a role he didn’t play—the pointy-eared starship Enterprise science officer, Mr. Spock. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry had offered him the half-Vulcan, half-human who attempts to rid his life of all emotion. Landau turned it down.
“A character without emotions would have driven me crazy; I would have had to be lobotomized,” he explained in 2001.
Instead, he chose Mission: Impossible, and Leonard Nimoy went on to everlasting fame as Spock.