‘Exorcist’ actor Max von Sydow dies at age 90
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — 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.
His agent Jean Diamond said Monday the actor, who was born in Sweden but became a French citizen in 2002, died the previous day in France.
“It is with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max von Sydow,” Diamond said.
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.”
The Swede was a mainstay of nearly a dozen classic, angst-ridden films by Bergman, including “Wild Strawberries,” “Shame” and the 1957 release “The Seventh Seal,” in which he featured in one of Bergman’s most memorable scenes, as the medieval knight who plays a game of chess against the grim reaper.
Actress Inga Landgre, 92, who appeared with him in “The Seventh Seal “told Sweden’s news agency TT that “there was a sense of security in his radiance” adding, “his presence was his strength.”
“Max Von Sydow was something like a consummate actor, with a pride in his art and a dedication to his craft that I’ve encountered in very few people in my life,” recalled Martin Scorsese, who co-starred in the director’s “Shutter Island.” “On the set he was remarkable, and off the set he a complete gentleman.”
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.