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

Jon Landau, the Oscar-winning film producer who collaborated with James Cameron on several projects including “Titanic” and both “Avatar” films, died Friday after a battle against cancer, a source close to the family told TheWrap. He was 63 years old.

“Jon was a visionary whose extraordinary talent and passion brought some of the most unforgettable stories to life on the big screen,” Disney Entertainment co-chair Alan Bergman said in a statement. “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.”

Landau was born on July 30, 1960, in New York, New York to Ely and Edie Landau, who were also both producers — Landau credited them with teaching him the skills needed to succeed in the role. He attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and began his career as a production manager on films including 1985’s “Key Exchange” and the 1986 films “F/X” and “Manhunter.”

He went on to produce Disney’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and “Dick Tracy,” before becoming executive vice president of feature productions at 20th Century Fox when he was just 29 years old.

While in the position throughout the 1990s, Landau was best known as the producer of the 1997 mega blockbuster film “Titanic,” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and the producer of the “Avatar” franchise alongside Cameron. Landau was also part of film history — “Titanic” became the first film to reach $1 billion at the box office. He also won two Golden Globes for “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

Landau’s tenure at Twentieth Century Fox also included overseeing “Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Speed,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “Die Hard 2,” “Power Rangers” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” Working in that rule on “True Lies” is where he sparked his decades of collaboration with director James Cameron.

Cameron recruited Landau when the executive chose to leave Fox, asking him to read a project then code-named “Planet Ice.” That film eventually became “Titanic.”

In recent years, Landau served as the steward for expanding the “Avatar” franchise, including collaborating with Cameron and the Walt Disney Company on the “Avatar” land and attraction at the Animal Kingdom theme park in Walt Disney World and shepherding the sequels. He was also the COO of Cameron’s production company Lightstorm Entertainment and he produced 2019’s “Alita: Battle Angel.”

“Avatar: The Way of Water” — the first of four planned “Avatar” sequels — finally hit theaters in 2022 and grossed over $2.3 billion worldwide. Landau was onboard to produce all four sequels, with “Avatar 3” and parts of “Avatar 4” already shot and “Avatar 5” yet to be filmed.

“Avatar 3” is set to be released in theaters in December 2025 by Disney’s 20th Century Studios.

Jon Landau and Sigourney Weaver discuss the making of “Avatar: The Way of Water” at TheWrap’s screening and Q&A with Steve Pond (Photo: Ted Soqui for TheWrap)
Jon Landau and Sigourney Weaver discuss the making of “Avatar: The Way of Water” at TheWrap’s screening and Q&A with Steve Pond (Photo: Ted Soqui for TheWrap)

As part of the team that produced three of the highest-grossing films of all time, Landau had plenty of experience understanding successful cinema. In a 2022 interview with The Talk, he explained how he measured success in terms of how a movie moved him.

“For me personally, I enjoy going to the movies, so a film’s success depends on whether it provides for me that escape — I don’t want to think about ‘Avatar,’ I don’t want to think about bills that have to be paid, all of these things,” he said. “Do I walk away from the theater having felt something emotionally? That’s how I view a movie that I go to as successful.”

In the same interview, he said that the success of “Titanic” pushed him as a producer. “I would say it has not changed it, but it has motivated me to even strive for newer heights cinematically. If you look at ‘Titanic’ and the standard that set; I’m talking about Deborah Scott and her costumes, Russell Carpenter’s cinematography, Peter Lamont’s production design…”

“Titanic” star Frances Fisher was among the first to memorialize Landau online. She first replied to a 2023 video he shared on X, “Had to come to your page to hear your voice. Fly with the angels dear Jon” before she separately tweeted, “Rest in Power Jon.”

TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman, Steve Pond and Mike Roe also contributed to this story.

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