Max von Sydow

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Max von Sydow, 1990
Max von Sydow, 2005

Carl Adolf "Max" von Sydow (born April 10, 1929 in Lund ; † March 8, 2020 in Provence , France ) was a Swedish actor of German descent and from 2002 with French nationality. Max von Sydow became internationally known from the late 1950s onwards through his participation in films by Ingmar Bergman and was one of the most prominent international character actors .

life and work

Max von Sydow, 1989
Max von Sydow, 1992
Max von Sydow, 2016

Max von Sydow's father, Carl Wilhelm von Sydow, was a professor of ethnology and Scandinavian and Irish folk music at Lund University , while his mother, Maria von Sydow (née Freiin Greta Rappe) was a teacher. His ancestors emigrated from Pomerania to Sweden in the 18th century .

Von Sydow attended the cathedral school in Lund, where he co-founded a theater group and gained his first acting experience. During his school days he learned English and German . From 1948 to 1951 he was trained as an actor at the Royal Dramatic Theater ("Dramaten") in Stockholm . Directed by Alf Sjöberg , he made his film debut in 1949 in Rya-Rya - Just One Mother .

In 1955 he moved from Sydow to Malmö , where he worked at the local theater and met Ingmar Bergman . Through his connection with Bergman, von Sydow became internationally known. First they worked together at the Malmö City Theater , later on several films. In 1957 von Sydow had his international breakthrough with his leading role as the dying knight in the historical film drama The Seventh Seal . Die Jungfrauenquelle , another film with him in the leading role of a medieval lord of the castle who takes revenge on the murderers of his daughter, received the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1961 . In the films Schande , Die Stunden des Wolfs und Passion he played in the late 1960s under Bergman's direction alongside Liv Ullmann .

While his work had been limited to the Scandinavian region until then , he agreed for the first time in 1965 to take on the leading role in a US production: it was the role of Jesus Christ in George Stevens ' film The Greatest Story of All Time . This lavishly produced monumental film, peppered with many cameos, was largely rejected by critics and commercially one of the biggest film flops of the 1960s. Nevertheless, Sydow was able to establish himself internationally as a famous actor and lived with his family in Los Angeles for a few years . In the middle of the seventies he moved to Rome and worked in numerous Italian film productions. In addition, he continued to be seen regularly in Hollywood productions - sometimes in roles as a German officer in World War II.

In 1973 he played the role of a priest in the globally successful horror film The Exorcist . He was also known for his villain portrayals as Blofeld in the James Bond film Never Say Never (1983) and as Imperator Ming in Flash Gordon . He took on other roles in films such as The Three Days of Condor , Conan the Barbarian , The Desert Planet , In a Small Town and Minority Report . In the film Hamsun by Jan Troell , von Sydow played the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun in 1996 . Despite his involvement in numerous action films , he preferred drama such as Pelle, the Conqueror , for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 1989 when choosing roles .

Max von Sydow continued to work as an actor well into old age, for example in the role of a rogue German doctor in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island and as a silent lodger in the drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close , the latter portraying his second and last Oscar Nomination. In 2015 he was part of the cast of the seventh part of the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as the discoverer Lor San Tekka . In 2016 he played the role of the three-eyed raven in the television series Game of Thrones . Before his death, he joined most recently in 2018 in Kursk by Thomas Vinterberg in a supporting role as an admiral in appearance. Posthumously, however, the war drama Echoes of the Past is to be published with him. His oeuvre includes around 160 film and television productions as well as some computer and video games.

With a few exceptions, his German dubbing voice was Jürgen Thormann .

Acting and choice of roles

In portraying many of his roles, film critics ascribe von Sydow charisma and archaic power. His lean figure and his voice, described as gnarled, reinforce this impression. In this regard, he made a great impact when he first worked with Bergman in The Seventh Seal as Crusader Antonius Block during a game of chess against death. His distinctive voice has also become known through numerous advertising films, most recently through computer games.

Due to his tall, bony figure, Max von Sydow was often entrusted with the embodiment of strict and authoritarian, sometimes rogue figures. In the course of his long career, however, he managed to cover a wide range of roles and to embody very different characters. He worked with many of the most artistically respected directors of his time.


Max von Sydow was first married to actress Christina Olin (also known as Kjerstin or Kerstin Olin) from 1951 to 1979 , with whom he had two sons. After the divorce in 1997 he married the French documentary filmmaker Catherine Brelet ; they met while filming the television film The Bible - Salomon , on whose production Max von Sydow worked as an actor and Brelet as assistant to director Roger Young . From then on, Brelet was only her husband's personal assistant. In 2002 von Sydow took on French citizenship.

He lived in Paris and spent his summer holidays in a holiday home on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea . Max von Sydow owned another house in Provence , France , where he died on March 8, 2020 at the age of 90.

Filmography (selection)

Awards (selection)

Award year category Film / series Result
Oscar 1988 Best Actor Pelle the Conqueror nominated
2012 Best supporting actor Extremely loud & incredibly close nominated
Bodil 1988 Best Actor Pelle the Conqueror price
1997 Best Actor Hamsun price
Emmy Award 1990 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special The murderers are already waiting nominated
2016 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series game of Thrones price
European film award 1988 Best actor Pelle the Conqueror price
Genie Awards 2008 Best supporting role Emotional arithmetic nominated
Golden Globe Awards 1966 Best Actor Drama Hawaii nominated
1973 Best supporting role The exorcist nominated
Guldbagge 1988 Best actor Pelle the Conqueror price
1989 Best director Ved vejen price
1997 Best actor Hamsun price
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards 1975 Best supporting role The three days of the Condor price
Robert 1988 Best Actor Pelle the Conqueror price
Adolf Grimme Prize 1995 with gold (together with Axel Corti , Gernot Roll and Tilman Günther ) Radetzky March price

Web links

Commons : Max von Sydow  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Max von Sydow , Encyclopædia Britannica Online, March 30, 2009
  2. Actor: Max von Sydow died . In: FAZ.NET . ISSN  0174-4909 ( [accessed March 10, 2020]).
  3. a b Max von Sydow | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos. In: Retrieved March 10, 2020 (American English).
  4. Sally O'Rourke: It Was 50 Years Ago Today: 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'. In: March 6, 2015, accessed March 10, 2020 .
  5. Starwars Episode VII, Casting.
  6. n-tv NEWS: Actor Max von Sydow is dead. Accessed March 10, 2020 .
  7. ^ Andreas Kilb: Wolf eye: Max von Sydow is eighty. In: FAZ , April 9, 2009, with photo series.
  8. ^ Actor Max von Sydow turns 80. ( Memento from April 10, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Kleine Zeitung , April 9, 2009.
  9. Max von Sydow, Star of 'The Seventh Seal' and 'The Exorcist,' Dies at 90. In: The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 10, 2020 .