Actor Max von Sydow (see-dow), whose career stretched across seven decades, died 4 weeks ago at age 90. Today, April 12th, is his birthday. The imposing Swedish star played the title character in The Exorcist and created iconic characters in both classic art cinema and Hollywood fantasy blockbusters.
In his 20s, von Sydow played chess with Death. Director Ingmar Bergman had cast the then-unknown actor as a medieval knight in The Seventh Seal, launching his career. He seemingly could make any character believable. In the epic The Greatest Story Ever Told, he played Jesus. He appeared as Sigmund Freud in an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. His craggy face and steely gaze made him much in demand as a bad guy, playing Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, Blofeld in Never Say Never Again, and the villain in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.
He invariably made his onscreen minutes count, whether as Lor San Tekka in Star Wars: The Force Awakens or as the Three-Eyed Raven to guide young Bran Stark in Game of Thrones. He played the King in Conan the Barbarian, The Imperial Geologist in Dune, Chief Justice Fargo in Judge Dredd, elevating entire movies with his magical and riveting performances.
He would show up in surprising roles, like in Solomon Kane, Shutter Island, Robin Hood, or Ghostbusters II. Always a pleasure when Max appeared and gave the story gravitas and excitement.
Von Sydow was fluent in Swedish, Danish, English, Italian and French and he acted in all those languages. He had also worked in voice acting, lending his voice to video games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Ghostbusters 2, and the TV series The Simpsons.
Edgar Wright led the tributes on Twitter, writing: “Max Von Sydow, such an iconic presence in cinema for seven decades, it seemed like he’d always be with us… A god.”