Death has finally won its game of Chess with the wonderful Max von Sydow, who has died a few weeks short of his 91st birthday. A Bergman regular who went onto appear in some of the biggest franchises on the planet, von Sydow was one of the most instantly recognisable Swedish actors who ever lived. He moved effortlessly from horror, to cult SF, to Oscar nominated drama. He played Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon and Blofeld himself in Never Say Never Again. He was Fr Merrick in The Exorcist, the villain in Minority Report and Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II. He was in Game of Thrones, Star Wars, The Simpsons and Skyrim. He was Oscar nominated for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which has lost three cast members inside a month. Other film roles which would be headline news for lesser actors included Shutter Island, What Dreams May Come, Dune, Hannah and Her Sisters, Death Watch and the sadly forgotten Awakenings. We’ve not even mentioned his role as Joubert the Assassin in Three Days of the Condor (who can forget that scene in the lift, Hitchcockian in its suspense), Escape to Victory or Conan the fn Barbarian. Or Voyage of the Damned. Or The Virgin Spring.
His iconic role is likely still that of the knight who challenges Death to a game of chess in 50s classic The Seventh Seal. It was the first of eleven films Von Sydow made with the mercurial Swedish genius Ingmar Bergman. An actor who insisted on bringing the same professionalism to B movies as you would to art flicks, Von Sydow managed nearly 20 films and TV appearances in the last decade of his long life, and his last film – Echoes of the Past – hasn’t even been released yet.
Von Sydow was picked by 11 teams on the DDP (One team per Bergman film?), including Cant Sleep Clown Will Eat Them, and Spookygal.
Max von Sydow
10 April 1929 – 8 March 2020