Jon Landau, Oscar-winning Titanic and Avatar producer, dies aged 63

<span>Jon Landau in Beverly Hills last year.</span><span>Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP</span>
Jon Landau in Beverly Hills last year.Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Jon Landau, the Oscar-winning Titanic and Avatar producer who helped bring director James Cameron’s visions to life, has died at 63.

Alan Bergman, co-chair of Disney Entertainment, announced Landau’s death in a statement on 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 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,” Bergman said.

Jon Landau helped make history in 1997 with Titanic, which became the first film to gross $1bn at the global box office. He topped that record twice, with Avatar in 2009 and the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, in 2022.

Landau began his career in the 1980s as a production manager, gradually rising through the ranks and eventually becoming producer for Cameron on his expensive, epic film about the infamous disaster that was the Titanic. Landau’s partnership with Cameron on that film led to 14 Oscar nominations and 11 wins, including for best picture.

“I can’t act and I can’t compose and I can’t do visual effects. I guess that’s why I’m producing,” Landau said while accepting the award with Cameron.

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

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

Landau was a key player in the Avatar franchise, which saw frequent delays of the release of The Way of Water. Landau defended the sequel’s progress and Cameron’s ambitious plans to film multiple sequels at once 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 has not changed is: why do people turn to entertainment today? Just like they did when the first Avatar was released, they do it to escape, to escape the world in which we live.”

Landau was named an executive vice-president of feature movies at 20th Century Fox when he was 29, which led him to oversee major hits including Home Alone and its sequel, as well as Mrs Doubtfire and True Lies, on which he first started working closely with Cameron.

Born in New York on 23 July 1960, Landau was the son of the film producers Ely and Edie Landau.

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