Max Von Sydow

Biography: Carl Adolf von Sydow was born on April 10th 1929 to a middle class family in Lund, southern Sweden. His father, Carl Wilhelm, was a professor of comparative folklore at the nearby University of Lund: his mother, Maria, was a school teacher. Little material is available on von Sydow's childhood, except that he seems to have been a shy, quiet only child. He attended the Cathedral School of Lund but despite being taught English from the age of nine, Max initially professed little interest in working outside Sweden.

In their late teens, Max and some friends founded an amateur theatre company and this is where he started his acting career. He completed National Service before going on to study at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm where his trained between 1948 and 1951, during which time he made his screen debut in Alf Sjoberg's 1949 film 'Bara en Mor' and his second film – the Swedish c – 'Miss Julie', also directed by Sjoberg.

It was when Max moved to Malmö in 1955
that he met his great mentor Ingmar Bergman with whom he worked first on stage (at Malmö Municipal Theatre) and later on films such as 'The Seventh Seal', 'Wild Strawberries' and 'The Virgin Spring' to name but a few masterpieces the pairing produced. It was here Von Sydow perfected his craft and began to display the great talent that has spanned the 53 years of his screen career. Von Sydow now dominated the screen as he had done on stage and in doing so became an idol of the international Arthouse and easily Sweden's greatest actor. Recognition came as early as 1954 when he was awarded the prestigious Royal Foundation Culture Award.

Von Sydow married in 1951 to actress Kerstin Olin with whom he had two sons, Claes and Henrik. They were to star with their father in the 1966 film 'Hawaii' playing his son at different ages. Max was divorced in 1996 but got remarried to French filmmaker Catherine Brelet in April 1997 in Provence, France.

Max worked profusely on stage and screen in Scandinavia and resisted increasing calls from America to come to Hollywood. After being seen in Bergman's Oscar-winning films and having been first choice for the title role of 'Dr. No', Max finally set foot in America after agreeing to star in the film which was to lead to much greater recognition – the role of Christ in George Steven's modestly titled, all-star 1965 epic 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'. His talents were soon in demand in other American productions and so Max and his family moved to Los Angeles.

From 1965 von Sydow became a regular on the American screen while also maintaining a healthy presence in his native Sweden. Though perhaps type-cast as a villain, he gave of his best in every production and was duly rewarded stateside with two Golden Globe nominations for 'Hawaii' (1966) and 'The Exorcist' (1973).

In the mid 70s, von Sydow moved to Rome and appeared in a number of Italian films, becoming friendly with another screen legend, Marcello Mastrioanni.

Max's career is too long to go into detail here and while he has given dozens of award-worthy performances he has had some 'keynote' films for which he has received recognition. He won the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival for 'The Flight of the Eagle' (1982) but this was to be his only major movie award until what one might describe as the 'renaissance' of his career.

In 1987 Max celebrated his success in 'Pelle the Conqueror'. He received his first Oscar nomination (and hopefully not his last) as well as winning the Bodil Prize, The Felix European Film Award, The Robert Award and the Guldbagge Award from his native Sweden (amazingly, the first time he was even nominated for the award). He also received special mention when 'Pelle' garnered the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Since then Max has won The Australian Film Institute Best Actor Award for his title role in 'Father' (1990), the Guldbagge Best Best Director Award for his only directorial foray 'Katinka' (1989), based on a favourite novel by Herman Bang, and the Best Actor Award at The Tokyo International Film Festival in 1992 for 'The Silent Touch'. It wasn't long before von Sydow had another Scandanavian success. He received international acclaim for his performance as the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Knut Hamsun in Jan Troell's biopic 'Hamsun'. He received his third Swedish Guldbagge and his second Danish Bodil for his depiction of a character often described as his King Lear. In 1998 Max gave another great performance (though sadly not recognised) in Liv Ullmann's 'Private Confessions'. Since then he has taken 'a bit of a sabbatical' – his most recent triumph being his moving performance as an elderly lawyer in Scott Hick's 'Snow Falling on Cedars', released in the US at the end of 1999. Pre-Oscar talk had him tipped to scoop the Best Supporting Actor Award, which sadly never came to fruition. In 2002 Max had one of his largest commercial successes, co-starring with Tom Cruise in Steven Speilberg's widely acclaimed sci-fi thriller 'Minority Report'. Max currently lives in the France with his wife where he enjoys gardening, reading, listening to music as well as writing. He has personally stated that he does not intend to retire, and as long as decent parts are offered to and accepted by him, we can look forward to many more of the performances that have made him such a joy to watch on screen.

Max Von Sydow's Scores

Average career score: 59
Highest Metascore: 92 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Lowest Metascore: 20 Branded
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 16
  2. Negative: 1 out of 16
16 movie reviews
Title: Year: Credit: User score:
tbd Star Wars: Episode VII Dec 18, 2015 Cast tbd
tbd The Letters Sep 5, 2014 Celeste Van Exem tbd
74 Liv & Ingmar Dec 13, 2013 Himself tbd
48 Solomon Kane Sep 28, 2012 Josiah Kane 7.1
20 Branded Sep 7, 2012 Cast / Marketing Guru 4.7
46 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Dec 25, 2011 Cast 5.8
53 Robin Hood May 14, 2010 Sir Walter Loxley 6.2
63 Shutter Island Feb 19, 2010 Dr. Naehring 7.7
92 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Nov 30, 2007 Papinou 8.3
44 Rush Hour 3 Aug 10, 2007 Reynard 6.6
59 Intact Dec 13, 2002 Samuel 7.2
80 Minority Report Jun 21, 2002 Director Lamar Burgess 7.7
82 The Exorcist Sep 22, 2000 Father Merrin 8.2
44 Snow Falling on Cedars Dec 22, 1999 Nels Gudmundsson 7.0
44 What Dreams May Come Oct 2, 1998 The Tracker 7.7
90 Hannah and Her Sisters Feb 1, 1986 Frederick 8.6
43 Conan the Barbarian May 14, 1982 King Osric 8.0
63 Flash Gordon Dec 5, 1980 The Emperor Ming/Ming's Floating Servant 7.6