Islamabad, 10 March 2020 – Staff Reporter:
Max von Sydow, the self-described “shy boy”-turned-actor known to art house audiences through his work with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and later to moviegoers everywhere when he played the priest in the horror classic The Exorcist, has died. He was 90.
From his 1949 screen debut in the Swedish film Only a Mother, von Sydow starred in close to 200 film and TV productions, remaining active well into his 80s. He received two Academy Award nominations — for best actor in 1988 for his gripping portrayal of an impoverished farmer in Pelle the Conqueror, and best supporting actor in 2012 for his role as a mute in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
More recently, he received an Emmy nomination for his work as the Three-Eyed Raven in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Von Sydow made his Hollywood debut as Jesus in the 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told, but gained widespread international fame as the devil-evicting priest in William Friedkin’s controversial 1973 film The Exorcist.
Tall and lanky, with sullen blue eyes, a narrow face, pale complexion and a deep and accented speaking voice, von Sydow was often typecast in Hollywood as the sophisticated villain.
While his characters were often sinister, tormented or evil, the soft-spoken von Sydow said he became an actor to overcome his own shyness.
Von Sydow was born April 10, 1929, into a family of academics in the southern Swedish city of Lund. He was baptized Carl Adolf von Sydow, but later changed his first name to Max. His given name, he said, was “not a good name” after World War II.
Although his family was not interested in theater, he said his father was a master of telling adventure stories that fueled his imagination as a child. He decided he wanted to be an actor and formed a theater society with his friends after seeing his first play, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at age 14.
He studied at the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm and acted in small municipality theaters in Sweden for eight years — an experience he later described as crucial for his career.
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.