Oscar-winning ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ producer Jon Landau dies at 63

Oscar-winning ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ producer Jon Landau dies at 63

Jon Landau, the Oscar-winning producer renowned for his work on “Titanic” and the “Avatar” films, has passed away at the age of 63. His family announced his death on Saturday, though no cause was provided. Landau’s collaboration with director James Cameron resulted in some of the most successful films in cinematic history, including “Titanic” and the “Avatar” series.

James Cameron, in a heartfelt statement, described Landau as “a dear friend, and my closest collaborator of 31 years.” Cameron added, “A part of myself has been torn away. His zany humor, personal magnetism, great generosity of spirit, and fierce will have held the center of our Avatar universe for almost two decades. His legacy is not just the films he produced, but the personal example he set—indomitable, caring, inclusive, tireless, insightful, and utterly unique.”

Landau’s career began in the 1980s as a production manager. He gradually climbed the ranks, serving as a co-producer on films like “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Dick Tracy.” His big break came when he took on the producer role for “Titanic,” Cameron’s ambitious project about the 1912 maritime disaster. The gamble paid off, as “Titanic” became the first film to cross $1 billion in global box-office earnings and won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.

During his Oscar acceptance speech with Cameron, Landau humorously remarked, “I can’t act and I can’t compose and I can’t do visual effects, so I guess that’s why I’m producing.”

The partnership between Landau and Cameron continued to flourish. Landau became a top executive at Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. In 2009, they released “Avatar,” a sci-fi epic that utilized groundbreaking 3D technology. The film surpassed the box-office success of “Titanic” and remains the top-grossing film of all time. Its sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” is currently the third highest-grossing film.

Zoe Saldaña, one of the stars of the “Avatar” franchise, paid tribute to Landau on Instagram, saying, “Your wisdom and support shaped so many of us in ways we will always be grateful for. Your legacy will continue to inspire us and guide us in our journey.”

Landau was instrumental in the “Avatar” franchise, which experienced frequent delays in the release of “The Way of Water.” He defended the sequel’s progress and Cameron’s ambitious plans to film multiple sequels simultaneously to sustain the franchise. In a 2022 interview with The Associated Press, Landau said, “A lot has changed but a lot hasn’t. One of the things that has not changed is: Why do people turn to entertainment today? Just like they did when the first ‘Avatar’ was released, they do it to escape, to escape the world in which we live.”

Alan Bergman, Disney Entertainment co-chairman, also paid tribute to Landau, stating, “Jon was a visionary whose extraordinary talent and passion brought some of the most unforgettable stories to life on the big screen. His remarkable contributions to the film industry have left an indelible mark, and he will be profoundly missed. He was an iconic and successful producer yet an even better person and a true force of nature who inspired all around him.”

At the young age of 29, Landau was named executive vice president of feature movies at 20th Century Fox. This role allowed him to oversee major hits like “Home Alone” and its sequel, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “True Lies,” where he first started working closely with Cameron.

Landau was also influential in bringing the manga adaptation “Alita: Battle Angel” to the big screen in 2019. Although Cameron supported the project, his commitments to “Avatar” prevented him from directing it. Instead, Landau collaborated with director Robert Rodriguez to complete the film.

Born in New York on July 23, 1960, Landau was the son of film producers Ely and Edie Landau. The family moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s, and Landau graduated from the University of Southern California’s film school. Ely Landau passed away in 1993, and Edie Landau, the Oscar-nominated producer of films like “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “Hopscotch,” and “The Deadly Game,” died in 2022.

Jon Landau is survived by his wife of nearly 40 years, Julie; their sons, Jamie and Jodie; and two sisters and a brother.

Landau’s passing has left a significant void in the film industry. His contributions to cinema, particularly through his work with James Cameron, have left an indelible mark. His legacy will continue to inspire filmmakers and audiences alike for generations to come.

Source: The Associated Press, Variety

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