Max von Sydow (1929-2020)

Sad bit of news to report today at the House. Hollywood legend and Swedish actor Max Von Sydow has passed away, just a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

Born Carl Adolf von Sydow on April 10, 1929 in Lund, Sweden, Sydow was the son of an ethnologist professor and a school teacher. While still in high school, Sydow became interested in theater after seeing a production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  After a short two year term in the Swedish military where he adopted the name Max, Sydow entered the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm where he studied for three years.

Von Sydow had a distinct baritone voice and a film career that spanned an unbelievable nine decades beginning with 1949’s Only A Mother. The actor made a name of himself collaborating with legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman eleven times. His most notable work under Bergman was 1957’s The Seventh Seal where he played Antonius Block, a 14th century Swedish knight who returns from the Crusades only to play a chess match with the personification of death.

Despite starring in such religious epics as The Greatest Story Ever Told, Sydow’s fame among American audiences didn’t come until 1973 with his breakout performance as Father Lankester Merrin in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Following that role von Sydow would star in a number of hit films over the next few decades including Minority Report, Three Days of the Condor, The Force Awakens, and What Dreams May Come. He was also nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Pelle the Conqueror (Best Actor) and one for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Best Supporting Actor). Personally, I will always remember von Sydow as King Osric in Conan The Barbarian and Leland Gaunt in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Needful Things.

Max von Sydow’s final film performance will be for the upcoming movie Echoes of the Past which is currently in post production.

Max von Sydow leaves behind his wife of almost twenty-three years Catherine Brelet and four children. He passed away at his home in Provence, France.

Rest in peace Max von Sydow. You will be missed.

Max von Sydow (April 10, 1929-March 8, 2020)