John Landau & Sigourney Weaver

‘Avatar’ and ‘Titanic’ Producer Jon Landau Dead at 63

Jon Landau has passed away at the age of 63. The producer and COO of James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment passing was confirmed by his son. He died of cancer. Landau was a longtime collaborator with James Cameron and worked with him on films like Avatar and Titanic.

Disney CEO Bob Iger shared his condolences in a post on iInstagram saying, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jon Landau, a great person, a friend…and a towering figure in our industry. Our deepest condolences to his family, his friends, and to Jim Cameron, his partner for 27 wonderfully productive and creative years.”

Landau worked as both a producer and executive throughout his career. As a producer, he worked on films like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) and Dick Tracy (1990). He then went on to become an executive at Fox. In that role, he oversaw movies like Die Hard 2 (1990), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Cameron’s True Lies (1994).

Landau eventually decided to leave Fox and return to producing. When he did this, he decided to collaborate with James Cameron. At the time, the movie he was working on was called Planet Ice. Eventually, this film would be Titanic. For the film, he oversaw construction of the sets and then a rewrite of the production schedule when the exterior of the Titanic wasn’t completed in time. It’s $120 million budget grew to $200 million and Landau had to deal with con-financiers Fox and Paramount. This turned out to be ok when the film was released and became one of the most successful of all time. It brought in $1.84 billion globally during its initial run. Re-releases of the film would bring that number to $2.3 billion. It also was quite successful at that year’s Academy Awards.

Another milestone in Landau’s career was Avatar. It went through its own complex set of challenges, including having to create technology that didn’t exist to bring Pandora and its inhabitants to life. This film also went way over budget and then became even more successful than Titanic at the box office. It’s initial run brought in $27 billion globally. This made it the highest grossing film of all time. It now has brought in $2.93 billion. The sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water saw its own set of challenges and then an incredible return at the box office. It brought in $2.3 billion.

“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,” said Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, whose Wētā FX company was the visual effects house for the Avatar movies. “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, VFX supervisor on the Avatar films, said in a 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.”

At the time of his death, Landau and Cameron were working on three more sequels for the Avatar series. This had movies coming out through 2031. Work was also being done on a future Avatar-themed area at the Disneyland Resort as a part of DisneylandForward. Landau is survived by wife, sons, sisters, and a half brother.