Swedish acting legend Max Von Sydow has died at the age of 90. His death was reported by his wife, producer Catherine Brelet, who said, “It is with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max Von Sydow on 8 March 2020.”
Tributes began pouring in on Twitter soon after.
A student of Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre, Von Sydow made his feature film debut in 1949. Global fame arrived with Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), in which Von Sydow portrayed a disillusioned knight who plays a game of chess with the personification of Death.
Von Sydow went on to star in 11 Bergman films, including Wild Strawberries (1957), The Magician (1958), Hour of the Wolf (1968), and Shame (1968).
Besides his collaborations with Bergman, Von Sydow also starred in seven productions by Swedish director Jan Troell. This include the Academy Award-nominated The Emigrants (1971) and its sequel The New Land (1972). The films follow a Swedish family that emigrates to the United States of America in the mid-19th century.
Von Sydow played an immigrant again in Bille August’s 1987 Swedish film Pelle The Conqueror. He received an Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category for the movie.
At around this time, Von Sydow crossed over to American cinema. In George Stevens’s historical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told, Von Sydow played Jesus Christ.
In the 1973 horror blockbuster The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, Von Sydow played elderly priest Lankester Merrin, who battles an evil demon who has possessed the body of a teenage girl.
Two years later, in Sydney Pollack’s political thriller Three Days of the Condor, Von Sydow played a cold-blooded assassin hired by the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Robert Redford’s character.
In the 1980 space opera film Flash Gordon, Von Sydow essayed one of his most colourful characters ever: Ming the Merciless, who begins attacking Earth out of boredom.
Other notable American films include David Lynch’s Dune (1984), Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters (1986), and Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990).
In the 2000s, Von Sydow worked in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi thriller Minority Report (2002). Von Sydow played Burgess Lamar, the co-founder of a controversial crime control programme who is up to no good himself.
Von Sydow was also in Martin Scorsese’s psychological thriller Shutter Island (2010), as Nazi-era German doctor, Jeremiah Naehring.
In the final years of his career, Von Sydow had a role in the hit HBO television series Game of Thrones. He played the Three-Eyed Raven, who guides Bran Stark through revelations and peril.