Jon Landau, producer of ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar,’ dies at 63

(NYT) — Jon Landau, an Oscar-winning producer and longtime collaborator of director James Cameron who helped bring to life three of the highest-grossing films of all time, “Titanic” and the two “Avatar” movies, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 63.

His death was announced by his family in a statement released by Disney Entertainment. It did not give a cause of death.


Landau and Cameron’s decades-long collaboration made box office history. The first film they made together, “Titanic,” became the first movie to gross more than $1 billion globally after its 1997 release. Its total earnings record, $1.84 billion, was broken by the next film they made together, the science-fiction epic “Avatar” (2009).

“Titanic” was nominated for 14 Oscars and won 11, including for best picture, an award Cameron and Landau shared.

“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,” Landau said in his acceptance speech.

Jon Landau was born July 23, 1960, in New York City. His first exposure to filmmaking was through his parents, Ely and Edie Landau, who together produced ambitious independent films for a mass audience, including adaptations of stage plays by Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee and Bertolt Brecht.

Many of these adaptations were released through a subscription service that the Landaus created called the American Film Theater, which gave audiences access to regular screenings of movie versions of plays.

Landau studied at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles and later worked as a production manager on films including “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989) and “Dick Tracy” (1990).

He became executive vice president of feature productions at 20th Century Fox, where he oversaw films including “Home Alone” (1990), “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) and “Speed” (1994).

It was during this time that he met Cameron, who was directing “True Lies” (1994), an action comedy distributed by 20th Century Fox, according to the statement.

When Landau decided to leave the company, Cameron asked if he wanted to read the script for a project code-named “Planet Ice.” That project would become “Titanic” and kick off a partnership that lasted decades.

“Titanic” was not expected to be a box office hit. The film lasts more than three hours and before its release there was extensive critical news coverage detailing delays with the production, which cost $200 million, far exceeding the film’s $110 million budget.

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