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

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jon Landau, a Oscar winning producer who worked closely with director James Cameron on three of the biggest blockbusters of all time, “Titanic” and two “Avatar” films, has died. He was 63.

Disney Entertainment co-chairman Alan Bergman announced Landau’s death in a statement Saturday. No cause of death was given.

“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 deeply missed. He was an iconic and successful producer, but also an even greater person and a true force of nature who inspired everyone around him,” said Bergman.

Landau’s collaboration with Cameron led to three Oscar nominations and a Best Picture win for 1997’s “Titanic.” Together, they are responsible for some of the biggest box office hits in cinema history, including “Avatar” and its sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Landau’s career began in the 1980s as a production manager and steadily rose to co-producer on ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ and ‘Dick Tracy’.

He took on the role of producer on “Titanic,” Cameron’s big-budget epic about the infamous 1912 maritime disaster. The bet paid off: “Titanic” became the first film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide at the box office 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 that’s why I produce.” Landau said while accepting the award with Cameron.


Cameron, right, and Landau hold the Oscar for best picture for “Titanic” in 1998. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Their partnership continued, with Landau becoming a top executive at Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment. In 2009, the two watched as “Avatar,” a sci-fi epic filmed and shown in theaters using groundbreaking 3-D technology, surpassed the box office success of “Titanic.” It remains the highest-grossing film of all time.

The sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” is third on the list.

Landau has been a key player in the “Avatar” franchise, which has often been hit by delays to the release of “The Way of Water.” Landau has defended the sequel’s progress and Cameron’s ambitious plans to film multiple sequels simultaneously to keep the franchise going.

“A lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t,” Landau told The Associated Press in 2022, a few months before the sequel’s release. “One of the things that hasn’t changed is: Why do people turn to entertainment today? Just like they did when the first ‘Avatar’ came out, they do it to escape, to escape the world that we live in.”

Landau was named executive vice president of feature films at 20th Century Fox at age 29, which led him to oversee major hits such as “Home Alone” and its sequel, as well as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “True Lies,” where he first began working closely with Cameron.


Rodriguez, actor Rosa Salazar and Landau at a press conference to promote “Alita: Battle Angel” in Seoul, South Korea, in 2019. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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

Landau was born in New York City on July 23, 1960, 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 Film School.

Ely Landau died in 1993. Edie Landau, the Oscar-nominated producer of such films 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; their sons Jamie and Jodie; and two sisters and a brother.

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