Jon Landau, Oscar-Winning ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ Producer, Dies at 63

Jon Landau, the Oscar-winning producer of “Titanic” and both “Avatar” movies, died of cancer on Friday, July 5. He was 63.

Landau, a longtime producing partner to James Cameron, was behind three of the top four highest-grossing movies of all time. Landau helped make history with “Titanic,” the first film to cross $1 billion at the global box office. He topped that movie’s record-breaking grosses twice, with 2009’s “Avatar” and its sequel, 2022’s “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

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Before his death, Landau was deeply involved in the production of the “Avatar” sequels. Cameron is planning to fill his blockbuster sci-fi franchise with five movies in total, with the fifth tentatively coming out in 2031.

Speaking to Variety at the “Way of Water” premiere, Landau recalled screening the movie for the principal cast. “When I saw them tearing up, I had to tear up,” he said.

In the 1990s, Landau was the executive vice president of feature film production at 20th Century Fox, which in 1995 struck a first look deal with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, where Landau served as chief operating officer. At 20th Century, Landau oversaw films such as “Die Hard 2,” “Power Rangers,” “True Lies” and “The Last of the Mohicans.”

He additionally is the architect of Lightstorm’s ancillary projects, such as Dark Horse Comics and Penguin Random House’s various “Avatar” print spinoffs. Landau also advised the creation of “Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora,” the well-received Ubisoft game that released in December, as well as an online multiplayer role-playing game from Tencent Games’ Level Infinite called “Avatar: Reckoning.”

Landau’s other producing credits include 1987’s “Campus Man,” 2002’s “Solaris” and 2019’s “Alita: Battle Angel.”

He leaves behind his wife, Julie Landau, to whom he was married for almost 40 years, as well as their two songs, Jamie and Jodie Landau. He is also survived by his siblings, Tina, Kathy and Les Landau.

Those who worked with Landau offered tributes, including co-chairman of Disney Entertainment Alan Bergman, who said, “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. Our thoughts are with Jon’s wife, Julie, and his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, whose Wētā FX company was the visual effects house for the “Avatar” movies, also released a statement: “We speak for the entire Wētā FX team when we say we are devastated by the loss of Jon Landau. Jon was not only a monumental figure in the film industry but also a cherished collaborator and friend. Jon brought unparalleled passion to the projects he worked on and his influence will continue to inspire for years to come. Our deepest condolences are with Jon’s family and loved ones, as well as Jim and the Lightstorm Entertainment team.”

Joe Letteri, who was the VFX supervisor on the “Avatar” films, added in his own statement, “I am heartbroken at the loss of our friend Jon Landau. He was an amazing and generous man, and a world-class film maker who leaves a legacy that will last for generations. On behalf of all of us at Wētā FX, it was an honour to work beside him. His dedication to the art of filmmaking inspired us every day. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

“Titanic” actor Frances Fisher paid tribute to Landau on X, writing, “Rest in Power Jon.”

Landau was born in New York, N.Y., on July 30, 1960, to Ely and Edie Landau, who were also both film producers. He attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

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