Max von Sydow Dead, Legendary Actor Dies at 90

Max von Sydow has died at age 90. According to The Hollywood Reporter, his death was confirmed in a statement from his widow, Catherine.

“It’s with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max Von Sydow on March 8, 2020,” reads the statement.

Von Sydow leaves behind a storied cinematic legacy. Early career highlights include the role of Antonius Block, the disillusioned Swedish knight whose questions about life and death are answered as he plays a game of chess with the grim reaper in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film, The Seventh Seal. Von Sydow later portrayed Father Lankester Merrin in the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. Adapted by director William Friedkin from author William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, the film chronicles the demonic possession of a young girl, Regan (Linda Blair), and the work of the two Catholic priests, Merrin and Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), attempting to save her soul.

More recently, von Sydow played the enigmatic Three-Eyed Raven on HBO‘s Game of Thrones, which earned him an Emmy nomination. As noted by ScreenRant, von Sydow took the role in Season 6, bumping the character’s former actor, Struan Rodger. Although no explanation was given for the swap, the publication noted that it’s likely HBO wanted to use von Sydow to bring “a little more prestige” to the show.

Von Sydow received two Oscar nominations during his career — one for best actor in 1998 for Bille August’s Pelle the Conqueror, and another for best supporting actor in 2012 for Stephen Daldry’s 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Notably, von Sydow’s nomination for the former was rare for a performance in a non-English-language film.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, von Sydow was one of the “most admired” actors from his era. Although he often lent his performances to serious films, he also ventured into less serious projects, including his role as Ming the Merciless in 1980’s Flash Gordon.

Von Sydow claimed that working with countryman Ingmar Bergman — he starred in 11 of the director’s films — was undoubtedly the “most important experience” of his lengthy career.

“It was very special, I was very privileged, and I’m very grateful for all the wonderful opportunities he gave me,” he said.

“It was also a period of learning, experimenting and developing. He gave young people wonderful opportunities, and he was a great inspiration for everybody.”

Despite coming from a family that was uninterested in theatre, von Sydow’s father often told adventure stories that the late actor said drove his imagination, CBC reported. It was after he saw his first play, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that he decided he wanted to pursue acting.

Von Sydow also revealed in an Associated Press interview that he became an actor in large part to overcome his shyness as a child.

“I was a very shy boy when I was a kid,” he said.

Von Sydow noted that his experience in an amateur acting group in high school gave him a “tool” that allowed him to express the “strange things” that he was too scared of showing before.

“Now I could do it with the character as a shield, as a defence and as an excuse.”

According to von Sydow, his acting profession was something he used for years as a form of “mental therapy.”

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