Max von Sydow Dead: ‘Exorcist’ & ‘Game of Thrones’ Actor Dies at 90

Max von Sydow

Getty Max von Sydow on November 8, 2007 in Hollywood, California.

Renowned Swedish actor Max von Sydow, who appeared in over 100 movies and TV shows, died on Sunday, March 8 at the age of 90. He appeared in many well-known Swedish films, including 11 movies directed by his fellow Swede Ingmar Bergman, as well as notable American films.

He died at his home in France on Sunday, March 8 at the age of 90. His wife, Catherine Brelet von Sydow, released a statement on Monday confirming his death: “It’s with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max Von Sydow on March 8, 2020,” the Hollywood Reporter shared. Max von Sydow had a long acting career and received many recognitions for his roles.

Here’s what you need to know about Max von Sydow:


1. He Starred in Many Well-Known Movies and Shows, Including ‘Shutter Island,’ ‘The Exorcist’ & ‘Game of Thrones’

Max von Sydow appeared in over 100 movies and shows. He began working with legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, making 11 films, including ‘The Seventh Seal.’ He received recognition in the mid-1950s, but continued to work on Swedish films until he went to the U.S. in the 1960s.

His role in 1965’s ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ by director George Stevens got him recognized across America and he became a highly-sought-after actor. Some of his most famous roles are in ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘Dune,’ ‘Minority Report,’ ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ and ‘Shutter Island.’ He also landed a role on ‘Game of Thrones,’ playing the Three-eyed Raven.


2. He Was Nominated for Emmy, Golden Globe & Academy Awards for His Roles

He received numerous nominations and wins for his roles. He was nominated for two Academy Awards, for his performances in ‘Pelle erobreren,’ or ‘Pelle the Conqueror,’ which was released in 1987 and ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,’ released in 2011. He was also nominated twice for the Golden Globes, once in 1967 for his role in ‘Hawaii’ and in 1974 for his performance in ‘The Exorcist.’

He was also nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards, including for his role as the Three-eyed Raven in ‘Game of Thrones.’ He was nominated 25 times overall, according to his IMDB profile. He also won awards at Carnes and Venice Film Festivals, received a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and more.


3. He Was Married Twice & Has 4 Children

Max von Sydow and Catherine Brelet

Catherine Brelet and Max Von Sydow during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2016.

Von Sydow first married another actress on August 1, 1951, Christina Inga Britta Olin, and they had two sons together, Clas and Henrik. The two divorced in 1979. He married Catherine Brelet in Provence, France, on April 30, 1997. They also had two children together, Cedric and Yvan. Brelet is a French filmmaker, and a few years after their marriage, Von Sydow became a French citizen.

His children have worked with him on movies before, with Clas and Henrik appearing in the film ‘Hawaii’ as Von Sydow’s son at different ages. His son Cedric has worked with him on many films since 1994. Von Sydow was well-known for being tall and imposing, standing at 6’4″ and with a deep voice. Because of these features, he often played imposing or serious roles.


4. He Was Born in Lund, Sweden to a Professor & a Teacher

Von Sydow was born Carl Adolf von Sydow in Lund, Sweden on April 10, 1929. His parents were Baroness Maria Margareta Rappe, who worked as a schoolteacher, and Carl Wilhelm von Sydow, an ethnologist and professor. His father was of partial German descent and most likely of aristocratic descent, due to the surname particle ‘von.’

Von Sydow went to Catholic school in Lund, where he learned to speak English very early on. He founded a theater club in school with a few friends and became passionate about acting. After school, he studied acting at the Royal Dramatic Theatre and began acting in the city theaters in Sweden. He moved to Malmo, Sweden to work at the municipal theater there, which is where he met Ingmar Bergman.


5. His Most Iconic & Breakthrough Moment Involved a Scene in ‘The Seventh Seal’ When His Character Plays Chess With Death

Max von Sydow The Seventh Seal

Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal.

Arguably his most powerful role, and one that launched his career, was his role in Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal.’ In this film, he played the role of a knight named Antonius Block who challenges Death personified to a game of chess. The film as a whole, and that scene specifically, are widely considered to be his international breakthrough.

The chess game is portrayed at various points through the movie, and it is a recurring theme throughout. Von Sydow’s character believes he can cheat Death as long as they keep playing.

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