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Games of Thrones & Exorcist star dies at age 90: acting as mental therapy

Max von Sydow dead
Max von Sydow dead. Pictured the late Swedish born actor.
Max von Sydow dead
Max von Sydow dead. Pictured the late Swedish born actor.

Max von Sydow dead: Ingmar Bergman protege who rose through theater, European cinema and Hollywood whose gravitas mirrored internal human conflict. Extolled as master actor passing away. 

Swedish born actor Max von Sydow has died at his home in France at the age of 90 according to a release by the man’s family on Monday.

The Hollywood legend, known for roles in Star Wars, Game Of Thrones, Flash Gordon and The Exorcist, died at his home in France on Sunday. 

Told the actor’s agent Jean Diamond in a statement: ‘It is with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max Von Sydow, March 8, 2020.’ 

Born in 1929, Von Sydow made his film debut in 1949, going on to appear in several films by Ingmar Bergman including a role as a knight in The Seventh Seal.  

The film’s scenes of him playing chess with the figure of Death would become renowned in cinematic circles. 

Von Sydow becomes Ingmar Bergman protege:

Prior to his big-screen career taking off, Von Sydow studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.

He went on to work with Bergman at the Malmo Municipal Theatre in the 1950s.    

He also went on to star in other Bergman films including Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring and Hour Of The Wolf. 

Subsequently, he enjoyed an illustrious Hollywood career with movies including The Exorcist and Minority Report. 

He played Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told and Lassefar Karlsson in Pelle the Conqueror, which earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor. 

He received a second Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor, in 2011 for his role in the post-9/11 film Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close.  

He also played sinister James Bond super-villain Ernst Blofeld in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

During his extensive film career the actor worked with a number of heavyweight directors, including, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg. 

‘I was a very shy boy when I was a kid, I suddenly got a tool in my hand that was wonderful.’ 

In 2015, von Sydow joined the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, portraying Lor San Tekka who appeared at the very start of the film. 

The following year, he portrayed the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, receiving a Primetime Emmy nomination.  

Although originally from Sweden, Von Sydow lived in France for many years and eventually took French citizenship.  

While his characters were often sinister, tormented or evil, Von Sydow said he became an actor to overcome his own shyness.

‘I was a very shy boy when I was a kid,’ he once said in an Associated Press interview. 

‘When I started acting in an amateur group in high school, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I suddenly got a tool in my hand that was wonderful. 

‘I was allowed to express all kinds of strange things that I never dared to express before. Now I could do it with the character as a shield, as a defense, and as an excuse.

‘I think that for many years I used my profession as some kind of a mental therapy.’

Describing him in 2007, the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Von Sydow is an inherently imposing screen presence with distinctive chiselled features. But in person, he is a warm, unpretentious man profoundly grateful for a career that he himself refuses to consider remarkable.”

Max von Sydow dead: From Swedish arthouse to Hollywood

Von Sydow married Swedish actress Christina Olin in 1951 and had two sons, Clas and Henrik. 

The couple later divorced and he married French filmmaker Catherine Brelet in 1997, with whom he had two more sons, Yvan and Cedric. 

Max Von Sydow’s 65 year career included starring roles in Ingar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. 

Max von Sydow was known for his many collaborations with Ingmar Bergman before he made the leap to Hollywood .

The actor, who has died aged 90, worked with the Swedish film-maker multiple times.

Their credits included The Seventh Seal, in which he famously played chess with the figure of Death, The Magician, The Virgin Spring, Through A Glass Darkly, Hour Of The Wolf and Shame.

In the 1960s, he made the move from European to US films.

More recently, he appeared in Game Of Thrones and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“I didn’t dream of becoming a movie actor when I was a boy, I wanted to go to the theatre,”

Von Sydow was born in Lund, Sweden, but later became a French citizen.

He was born Carl Adolf von Sydow, according to reports, but changed his name after deciding to act for a living.

“During my military service, I performed a sketch in which I played a flea called Max. So when critics kept misspelling my name, I decided to change it and thought, ‘Ah! Max!’,” he later told The Guardian.

He attended the acting academy at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm.

“I didn’t dream of becoming a movie actor when I was a boy, I wanted to go to the theatre,” he later told The Wall Street Journal.

“I was very impressed by the first theatre I was introduced to … and it made an enormous impression on me.”

The actor made his film debut in the Swedish film Only A Mother in 1949.

He was Oscar nominated twice – for best actor for his role in Pelle The Conqueror (1987) and for supporting actor for Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (2011).

He was also acclaimed for his role in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (2007) and played sinister James Bond super-villain Ernst Blofeld in 1983 movie Never Say Never Again.

Hollywood credits included The Exorcist, Minority Report, Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.

Other titles included Hawaii, The Kremlin Letter, Three Days Of The Condor and Woody Allen’s Hannah And Her Sisters,

He appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lor San Tekka and Game Of Thrones as the Three-eyed Raven, for which he was nominated for an Emmy.

Max von Sydow dead: a master actor who used the canvas of story telling to explore his own inner workings and give license to the collective to feel and wonder.