Max von Sydow obituary: The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist and Game of Thrones star dies aged 90

Max von Sydow, best known for his versatile work in film and television, has died at the age of 90.

His family announced “with a broken heart and infinite sadness” that the Swedish-born actor had passed away on Sunday.

Born in Lund, Sweden, von Sydow studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s acting school before making his screen debut as Nils the crofter in Alf Sjöberg’s Only a Mother (1949).

He then starred in a Swedish version of Miss Julie (1951) before hitting the big time with legendary director Ingmar Bergman. The pair would collaborate on eleven films together with the first of those being as The Seventh Seal (1957). The acclaimed drama starred von Sydow as a medieval knight who challenges Death to a chess game.

His work with Bergman continued to excel as he produced stirring performances in other renowned features like Wild Strawberries (1958), The Virgin Spring (1960) and Through a Glass Darkly (1961).

This remarkable run of films soon made von Sydow an international star and led to him landing more roles abroad. He played the coveted role of Jesus in the Bible-based epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and then followed that up with his Golden Globe-nominated performance as Reverend Abner Hale in the romantic drama Hawaii (1966).

The 60s ended well with appearances in the likes of The Quiller Memorandum (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968) and The Passion of Anna (1969).

In the early 70s, von Sydow showed great versatility with his characters starting with his performance as struggling farmer Karl Oskar in Ingmar Bergman’s The Emigrants (1971) and its sequel The New Land (1972).

However, one of his most memorable roles would come in 1973 when he played veteran priest Father Merrin in the controversial horror classic The Exorcist. The performance earned him his second (and final) Golden Globe nomination though he would later reprise his role in the disappointing sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).

Having then played the likes of assassin Joubert in Three Days of the Condor (1975) and Captain Schroeder in Voyage of the Damned (1977), von Sydow went into camp mode for his portrayal of Flash Gordon’s nemesis The Emperor Ming in the sci-fi hit Flash Gordon (1980).

Another memorable villain role came when he played the sinister Ernst Blofeld in the James Bond blockbuster Never Say Never Again (1983). During that period in the 80s, he had also popped up as Major Karl Von Steiner in Escape to Victory (1981), King Osric in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and as Doctor Kynes in Dune (1984).

In 1985, von Sydow spent time working on a number of television series which included Quo Vadis?, Christopher Columbus and The Last Place on Earth and then followed that up with his role as artist Frederick in Woody Allen’s multi award-winning drama Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

He finally grabbed the attention of the Academy in 1988 when he landed his first Oscar nomination for his performance as emigrant father Lassefar in the Swedish drama Pelle the Conquerer.

Having provided the voice of Vigo in Ghostbusters II (1988), von Sydow continued to work between home and abroad during the 90s in the likes of Awakenings (1990), Europa (1991), Judge Dredd (1995) and What Dreams May Come (1998).

Now into his 70s, the Swedish veteran’s work continued to soar in the noughties with roles like the corrupt director Lamar Burgess in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002) plus The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), Rush Hour 3 (2007) and The Tudors (2009).

He also got the opportunity to work with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott on their respective films Shutter Island (2010) and Robin Hood (2010) before landing his second Oscar nomination for his role as a mute man known as the Renter in the emotional drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011).

Towards the end of his career, von Sydow grabbed the opportunity to appear in two more moneymaking franchises. Firstly, he made a brief appearance as the doomed Lor San Tekka in the beginning of the Star Wars sequel The Force Awakens (2015).

That was then followed by his three-episode stint as the Three-Eyed Raven in the sixth series of the epic fantasy show Game of Thrones (2016).

His final film role was set to be in Nicholas Dimitropoulos’ upcoming drama Echoes Of The Past, which is reported to be in post.

von Sydow is survived by his second wife and two sons.

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