Von Sydow, Max
VON SYDOW, Max
Nationality: Swedish. Born: Carl Adolf von Sydow in Lund, 10 April 1929. Education: Attended Cathedral School of Lund; Royal Academy (now Royal Dramatic Theatre School), Stockholm, graduated 1951. Family: Married 1) the actress Kerstin Olin, 1951 (divorced 1996), sons: Claes and Henrik; 2) Cathrine Brelet, 1997. Career: Made his film debut in Bara en Mor, 1949; worked as an actor with the Norrköping-Linköping Municipal Theatre, 1951–53, worked at the Municipal Theatre of Hälsingborg, 1953–55, and the Municipal Theatre of Malmö, 1955–60; directed on stage at Malmö by Ingmar Bergman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Peer Gynt, Le Misanthrope, and Faust; appeared in The Seventh Seal, his first film with Bergman, 1957; joined the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 1960; played the role of Christ in his first U.S. film, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965; made his Broadway debut in The Night of the Tribades, 1977; appeared in the stage play Duet for One, 1981; directed his first film, Katinka, 1988; on stage in The Tempest at the Old Vic, London, 1988; appeared in the TV mini-series Radetzkymarsch (Radetzky March), 1994, and Enskilda Samtal, 1996. Awards: Venice Film Festival Best Actor, for Flight of the Eagle, 1982; Best Actor Guldbagge Award, Best Actor European Film Award, Bodil Festival Best Actor, Robert Festival Best Actor, for Pelle the Conqueror, 1987; Best Direction Guldbagge Award, for Katinka, 1988; Australian Film Institute Best Actor in a Lead Role, for Father, 1989; Tokyo International Film Festival Best Actor, for The Silent Touch, 1992; Best Actor Guldbagge Award, Bodil Festival Best Actor, for Hamsun. 1996. Address: c/o Filmuset, Box 27126, 102 52 Stockholm 27, Sweden.
Films as Actor:
Bara en Mor (Only a Mother) (Sjöberg) (as Nils)
Froken Julie (Miss Julie) (Sjöberg) (as Hand)
Ingens Mans Kvinna (No Man's Woman) (Kjellgren)
Rätten att Älska (The Right to Love) (Pollack)
Det Sjunde Inseglet (The Seventh Seal) (Bergman) (as Antonius Block); Prästen i Uddarbo (Fant); Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) (Bergman) (as Akerman)
Nära livet (Brink of Life; So Close to Life) (Bergman) (as Harry Andersson); Spion 503 (Jeppesen); Ansiktet (The Face; The Magician) (Bergman) (as Albert Emanuel Vogler)
Jungfrukällen (The Virgin Spring) (Bergman) (as Herr Tore); Bröllopsdagen (The Wedding Day) (Fant) (as Anders Frost)
Sasom i em Spegel (Through a Glass Darkly) (Bergman) (as Martin)
Nils Holgerssons Underbara Resa (Adventures of Nils Holgersson); Älskarinnan (The Swedish Mistress) (Sjöman) (as married man)
Nattvardsgästerna (Winter Light) (Bergman) (as Jonas Persson)
4 x 4 (Uppehall i Myrlandet); The Greatest Story Ever Told (Stevens) (as Jesus); The Reward (Bourguignon) (as Scott Swanson)
Hawaii (George Roy Hill) (as Abner Hale); The Quiller Memorandum (Anderson) (as Oktober); Här har du ditt liv (Here's Your Life; This Is Your Life) (Troell) (as Smalands-Pelle)
Svarta palmkroner (The Black Palm Trees) (Lindgren)
Vargtimmen (Hour of the Wolf) (Bergman) (as Johan Borg); Skammen (Shame) (Bergman) (as Jan Rosenberg); Made in Sweden (Bergenstrahle)
En Passion (A Passion; The Passion of Anna) (Bergman) (as Andreas Winkelman)
The Kremlin Letter (Huston) (as Col. Vladimir Kosnov)
The Night Visitor (Benedek) (as Salem); Beröringen (The Touch) (Bergman) (as Andreas Vergerus); Appelkriget (The Apple War) (Danielsson) (as Roy Lindberg); I havsbandet (Lagerkvist—for TV)
Utvandrarna (The Emigrants) (Troell) (as Karl Oskar); Embassy (Hessler) (as Gorenko)
Nybyggarna (The New Land) (Troell) (as Karl Oskar); The Exorcist (Friedkin) (title role)
Steppenwolf (Haines) (as Harry Haller); Agget är löst (Egg! Egg! A Hardboiled Story)
Foxtrot (The Other Side of Paradise) (Ripstein) (as Larsen); Three Days of the Condor (Pollack) (as Joubert); The Ultimate Warrior (Clouse) (as the Baron); Cuore di cane (Lattuada); Il contesto (Rosi)
Cadaveri eccelenti (Illustrious Corpses) (Rosi) (as Chief Justice); Voyage of the Damned (Wanamaker) (as Capt. Schroeder); Le désert des Tartares (Il deserto dei Tartari; The Desert of the Tartars) (Zurlini) (as Hortiz)
Exorcist II: The Heretic (Boorman) (as Father Merrin); March or Die (Richards) (as François Marneau); La signora della orroro (Black Journal)
Brass Target (Hough) (as Shelley/Weber); Gran bollito (Bolognini)
Flash Gordon (Hodges) (as Emperor Ming); She Dances Alone (Dornhelm) (as voice of Nijinsky); Bugie bianchi (Rolla)
Victory (Escape to Victory) (Huston) (as Maj. Karl von Steiner)
Conan the Barbarian (Milius) (as King Osric); Ingenjör Andrees luftfärd (Flight of the Eagle) (Troell) (as Salomon August Andree)
Strange Brew (Thomas and Morani) (as Brewmeister Smith); Never Say Never Again (Kershner) (as Ernst Stavro Blofeld); Cercel des passions (D'Anna)
Dreamscape (Ruben) (as Dr. Novotny); Samson and Delilah (Philips—for TV); Letzte Zivlist (Heynemann—for TV); Target Eagle (Loma) (as Col. O'Donnell); Dune (Lynch) (as Liet Kynes); George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (Stevens Jr.—doc) (as himself); The Ice Pirates (Raffill—for TV)
Kojak: The Belarush File (Markowitz—for TV); Code Name: Emerald (Sanger) (as Jurgen Brausch); The Last Place on Earth (Fairfax—for TV); Il pentito (Squitteri) (as Spinola); Quo Vadis (Rossi—for TV); Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus) (Lattuada—for TV) (as King John of Portugal)
Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen) (as Frederick); Duet for One (Konchalovsky) (as Dr. Louis Feldman); SecondVictory (Thomas) (as Dr. Huber); The Wolf at the Door (Oviri) (Carlsen) (as August Strindberg)
Pelle Erovraren (Pelle the Conqueror) (August) (as Papa Lasse Karlsson)
Red King, White Knight (Murphy—for TV) (as Szaz); Father (Power) (as Joseph Mueller)
Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes (Werner—for TV) (as Father Siemes); Mio caro Dottor Graesler (Dr. Graesler; The Bachelor) (Faenza) (as Von Schleheim); Una Vita Scellerata (Violent Life) (Battiato) (as Pope Clement VII); Awakenings (Penny Marshall) (as Dr. Peter Ingham)
A Kiss before Dying (Dearden) (as Thor Carlsson); The Ox (Oxen) (Nykvist) (as the vicar); Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World) (Wenders) (as Henry Farber)
Zentropa (Europa) (von Trier) (as narrator); Den Goda Viljan (The Best Intentions) (August) (as Johan Akerblom); Dotkniecie reki (The Silent Touch) (Zanussi) (as Henry Kesdi)
Needful Things (Fraser Heston) (as Leland Gaunt)
Time Is Money (Paolo Barzman) (as Joe Kaufman)
Atlanten (Enquist, Kristian Petri, and Roed) (as narrator); Judge Dredd (Cannon) (as Judge Fargo); Citizen X (Gerolmo—for TV) (as Dr. Aleksandr Bukhanovsky)
Jerusalem (August) (as Vicar); Hamsun (Troell) (as Knut Hamsun); Enskilda samtal (Private Confessions) (Ullmann—series for TV) (as Jacob)
Hostile Waters (Péril en mer) (Drury—for TV) (as Admiral Chernavin); En Frusen dröm (A Frozen Dream) (Troell) (as voice of S.A. Andrée); La Principessa e il povero (Bava—for TV) (as Epos); Solomon (Young—for TV) (as David)
What Dreams May Come (Ward) (as The Tracker)
Snow Falling on Cedars (Hicks) (as Nels Gudmundsson)
Nuremberg (Simoneau—mini for TV) (as Samuel Rosenman); Druids (Dorfmann)
Film as Director:
Vid vejen (Katinka)
By VON SYDOW: articles—
"Working with Bergman," interview in Films and Filming (London), August 1960.
"The Face of an Actor: Max von Sydow in an Interview with Gordon Gow," in Films and Filming (London), July 1976.
Von Sydow, Max, "Vi byggde manga broar. . . ," in Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 2/3, 1988.
"Max von Sydow realiser ses reves," interview with Y. Alion, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), November 1988.
"Bergman and the Actors," interview with F. J. Marker and L.-L. Marker, in Theater, vol. 21, no.1/2, 1990.
On VON SYDOW: books—
Cowie, Peter, Ingmar Bergman: A Critical Biography, New York, 1982.
Cowie, Peter, Max von Sydow: From "The Seventh Seal" to "Pelle the Conqueror," Stockholm, 1989.
Soerenson, Elisabeth, Max von Sydow beraetter, Stockholm, 1989.
On VON SYDOW: articles—
Current Biography 1967, New York, 1967.
Ecran (Paris), May 1978.
Bulnes, J., "Les immortels du cinema: Max Von Sydow," in Cine Revue (Brussels), 28 June 1984.
Lundgren, H., "Max von Sydow," in Kosmorama (Copenhagen), Summer 1986.
Wivel, H., "'Ung Flugt'," in Levende Billeder (Copenhagen), January 1988.
Cohn, L., "Scandinavia-hopping Von Sydow Comes Stateside to Promo Pelle'," in Variety (New York), 21–27 December 1988.
Kauffmann, Stanley, "An End and a Beginning," in New Republic (New York), 23 January 1989.
Dufour, D., "Max Von Sydow," in Film en Televisie + Video (Bruissels) (May/June 1989.
Kudriavtsev, S., "Dos'e 'IK'," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 10, 1993.
* * *
When you think of Scandinavian movie stars, the first name that comes to mind is Max von Sydow. Since his screen debut in 1949 in Alf Sjoberg's Only a Mother, he has appeared in countless films, including titles as diverse as Hannah and Her Sisters and Conan the Barbarian, The Emigrants and The Exorcist, Pelle the Conqueror and Judge Dredd. The actor is easily recognized by his gaunt appearance: he is tall, with a long, lean face and sharp features. These physical characteristics have been an asset in both aspects of his screen career, comprised of the character roles he has played in English-language films and his status as a principal on-screen interpreter of Ingmar Bergman.
In the United States, von Sydow enjoys the reputation of a serious actor, due to the roles he plays—character ones, rather than leading men or traditional star parts—and his past association with Bergman. His roles have ranged from intellectuals (the painter who is Barbara Hershey's live-in lover in Hannah and Her Sisters) to ministers and priests (in Hawaii and The Exorcist) to stock heavies (a sadistic Nazi in The Quiller Memorandum, cold-blooded assassins in Three Days of the Condor and Brass Target). He was the title character in The Exorcist, and a supernatural guide in What Dreams May Come; he also has played Christ, in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and the Devil, in Needful Things. And he has appeared in as many forgettable, if not outright disastrous, American films (Dune, Judge Dredd, and Hurricane are but a few) as he has in first-rate, Oscar-caliber titles (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Exorcist, Awakenings).
Von Sydow has co-starred in a number of European productions by prominent directors, including Mauro Bolognini, Bertrand Tavernier, Jan Troell, and, most recently, Bille August. But it is his work with Bergman for which he will be best-remembered. He earned his initial international acclaim in Bergman-directed films, particularly The Seventh Seal (as the tormented knight who rides through the plague-ridden countryside in search of a good deed he might perform before the figure of Death takes him away) and The Virgin Spring (as the father who avenges the rape-murder of his young daughter). Indeed, in his best roles for Bergman (in which he has, more often than not, played husbands and artists), von Sydow has embodied the anguished soul who suffers as a result of his desires, or guilt, or the guilt he feels because of his desires. Throughout his career, he has remained active on the stage, often working with Bergman on the latter's theatrical undertakings; in fact, he began his collaboration with Bergman in the 1950s when he joined the Municipal Theatre of Malmö, where Bergman was the principal director. Decades later, he capped his association with the filmmaker by taking supporting roles in two Bergman-scripted family histories. First he played Johan Akerblom, Bergman's maternal grandfather, in the Bille August-directed The Best Intentions. Then he was a character who, in an earlier day, might have been the counselor of one of his prior Bergman parts: the spiritual advisor of Anna, the filmmaker's mother, in Private Confessions, directed by Liv Ullmann. Nearing age 60, von Sydow extended the boundaries of his career by directing his first feature: Katinka, a romantic story based on a novel by Herman Bang. Yet he remains primarily an actor, with his mere presence lending his projects an aura of class. In recent years, most of his roles have been supporting ones. One notable exception is Hamsun, directed by Jan Troell, in which he stars as Knut Hamsun, the controversial Nobel laureate writer who sided with Hitler during World War II.
Nonetheless, von Sydow's finest late career role is the aging, illiterate old widower Lasse Karlsson in Pelle the Conqueror, directed by Bille August. Lasse and his young son Pelle are impoverished Swedish immigrants in Denmark: simple folk with modest dreams, who must valiantly struggle for survival in a world rife with everyday cruelty and injustice. Von Sydow eloquently captures his character in voice and mannerism; he plays Lasse brilliantly, with much grace, humor, and understanding, and he went on to earn his first (and, to date, only) Best Actor Academy Award nomination.