Legendary Actor, Max von Sydow from Sweden, Dies

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Legendary Actor, Max von Sydow from Sweden, Dies

By Tom Synder, Editor

Max von Sydow, one of the greatest actors of the last two centuries, died this weekend at age 90.

Born in 1929 in Lund Sweden, Von Sydow achieved fame in 1957 when he starred in Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL, as a 14th Century knight returning from the Crusades who plays a game of chess with Death. He later went on to star in many Bergman movies, including THE MAGICIAN (1958) and THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), and in more modern roles like THORUGH A GLASS DARKLY(1961), WINTER LIGHT (1963), HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968), SHAME (1968), and THE PASSION OF ANNA (1969), where he became Bergman’s on screen alter ego confronting the spiritual and psychological anguish of modern life.

He finally accepted the call from Hollywood, playing the role of Jesus in the 1965 classic biblical epic THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD by George Stevens.

Von Sydow starred in many American and international movies. His most famous roles included the assassin in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, the elderly priest in THE EXORCIST, the villain in the MOVIEGUIDE® Award winning movie THE MINORITY REPORT, a young reverend in HAWAII, a mute neighbor in the MOVIEGUIDE® Award winning movie EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, and a Swedish immigrant to America in THE EMIGRANTS and THE NEW LAND. He finally was nominated for an Oscar for his roles as the hard-working Christian father in the MOVIEGUIDE® Award winning Danish movie PELLE THE CONQUEROR (1987).

In recent years, Von Sydow played the Three-Eyed Raven in GAME OF THRONES and a minor character in the STAR WARS movie THE FORCE AWAKENS.

“When we were filming the greatest story ever told,” Von Sydow said, “we were in Utah and many of the people on the set expected me to behave like Jesus all the time, day and night. But, it’s not method acting, is it? I couldn’t have my wife visit me openly because Jesus was not married, and I couldn’t take a drink and relax when I was Christ. It’s much easier now.”

On why he became an actor, Von Sydow said, “I had an odd upbringing. My father was a scholar, a professor in the town where I was born, and his subject was folklore. He was a master at telling stories – folk tales and adventures. I was very shy as a boy and heard more fairy tales than the average child because of my father. This and my shyness prompted my imagination and led to an interest in make believe.”

Married twice, to actress Kerstin Olin in 1951 and French filmmaker Catherine Brelet in 1997, Von Sydow is survived by Brelet; his two sons by Olin, Claes and Henrik, who appeared with the actor in the movie HAWAII; and two sons, Cedric and Yvan, by Brelet.

An agnostic or atheist earlier in life, Von Sydow said in a 2012 interview that he has come to agree with his mentor, Bergman, that there is an afterlife.

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