Jon Landau: The film industry’s ideal producer

Jon Landau: Film industry icon Jon Landau, an Oscar-winning producer who worked with director James Cameron on three of the biggest box office hits of all time, “Titanic” and two “Avatar” films, has died. He was 63. Landau’s family announced his death Saturday. No cause of death was given. Landau’s partnership with Cameron earned him three Oscar nominations and a best picture win for 1997’s “Titanic.” Together, the two represent some of the biggest box office hits in film history, including “Avatar” and its sequel “Avatar: The Way to the Water.” Cameron, in a statement, remembered “a dear friend and my closest collaborator for 31 years.” “A part of me has been taken away,” Cameron said. “His quirky humor, personal magnetism, legendary generosity of spirit and fieriness would have been at the center of our Avatar universe for nearly two decades,” Cameron said. “His legacy is not just the films he produced, but the personal example he set: indomitable, caring, inclusive, tireless, insightful and absolutely unique.” Landau’s career began in the 1980s as a production manager, and he gradually rose to become a co-producer of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Dick Tracy.”

He also worked as a producer on the 1912 film “Avatar” and “Dick Tracy.” Landau played the part as a producer of Cameron’s costly epic “Titanic” about the infamous maritime disaster of 1918: “Titanic” became the first film to surpass $1 billion in global box office earnings and won 11 Oscars, including best picture. “I can’t act, I can’t compose and I can’t do visual effects, so I guess I’m just producing it,” Landau said while accepting the award with Cameron. Their partnership continued and Landau became a top executive at Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. In 2009, the pair oversaw “Avatar,” a sci-fi epic filmed and shown in theaters using unprecedented 3D technology, which surpassed “Titanic’s” box office success. It remains the highest-grossing film of all time. Its sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” is third on the list. “His wisdom and support shaped so many of us in ways we will always be grateful for,” Zoe Saldana, one of the stars of the “Avatar” franchise, said in a touching tribute on Instagram. “His legacy will continue to inspire and guide us in our journey.”

Landau has been a key player in the “Avatar” franchise, which has faced successive delays in the release of “The Way of Water.” Landau defended Cameron’s ambitious plans to film multiple sequels simultaneously to keep the sequels moving and the franchise going. “A lot of things have changed, but a lot hasn’t changed,” Landau told The Associated Press in 2022, just months before the sequels’ release. “One of the things that hasn’t changed is this: Why do people turn to entertainment today? “Just as they did when the first ‘Avatar’ was released, they do it to escape, to escape the world we live in.” “John 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 greatly missed. He was an iconic and successful producer, but an even better human being and a true force of nature who inspired everyone around him,” Disney Entertainment co-chairman Alan Bergman said in a statement. Landau was 29 when he was named executive vice president of features at 20th Century Fox, which led to him overseeing huge hits such as “Home Alone” and its sequel as well as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “True Lies,” where he began working closely with Cameron.

Landau was also instrumental in bringing the manga adaptation “Alita: Battle Angel” to the big screen in 2019. Cameron supported the project, but his commitments to “Avatar” prevented him from directing it. Instead, Landau worked with director Robert Rodriguez to complete the film. Born in New York on July 23, 1960, Landau was the son of filmmakers Ellie and Eddie Landau. The family moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s and Landau graduated from the University of Southern California’s film school. Ellie Landau died in 1993. Eddie Landau, an Oscar-nominated producer for films such as “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; his children, Jamie and Jodie; and two sisters and a brother.

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