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The Max von Sydow Study

You may not recognize the name, but you've seen him.

Click here to read the Last Place on Earth Publicity packet biography of Max von Sydow.

© 1985 Carlton UK Television

Max von Sydow has been in everything. He was a favorite of Ingmar Bergman, so if you took any film classes in college, you've seen him. He's a favorite to play heavies who need an accent, so if you're a fan of Stephen King or Sci/Fi, you've seen him. He's been in made-for-TV movies, horror flicks, Academy award winning films, voiceovers and historical dramas (he's played Fridtjof Nansen, S.A. Andree (twice), Knut Hamsun, Eugene O'Neill, Pope Clement VII, August Strindberg, King John of Portugal and Jesus, just to name a few.) IMDB's filmography goes on for more than 5 pages. He is quite possibly the world's most prolific actor.

His Nansen in The Last Place on Earth near perfect. We don't believe there is another actor alive who was born to play Nansen like Max, what with his natural air of authority and close resemblance. He also looks good in a bowler hat.

His range in phenomenal. He went from the comically evil Brewmeister Smith in SCTV's Strange Brew straight to James Bond's Never say Never Again. Between 1995 and 1996 he was in 9 projects ranging from the sublime (Hamsun) to the ridiculous (Judge Dredd). This guy is a one-man Six Degrees of Separation machine.

Here is a mere sampling of movies you can see him in. Some we've seen, some we haven't. You choose which genre you like and run with it.

**Also stars other actors from Last Place on Earth
Hamsun** (Sweden & Norway, 1996). Max is Knut Hamsun, Norway's most famous writer, winner of the nobel Prize for literature and Nazi sympathizer. In Norwegian, with English subtitles.

Flight of the Eagle**(Sweden, 1982) Max plays S.A. Andree, the Swede who attempted to reach the North Pole by balloon. Interestingly, Max has played both Andree and his contemporary Nansen, who was also a contemporary of Knut Hamsun. Originally in Swedish.

Hannah and her Sisters (US, 1986) A Woody Allen picture. Max plays the older misanthropic lover of Barbara Hershey.
The Exorcist (US, 1973) If you haven't seen this film, you simply must. It's an historic horror film loaded with the things pop culture likes to reference. Max is Father Merrin. It's just been re-released in theatres, so those of us still toddling about in 1973 can see it in all its big screen glory.
© 1973 Warner Bros. Films
Hawaii(US, 1966) Based on the James Michener novel of the same name, Max plays the 19th century missionary who heads off to Hawaii to convert the natives. Two of Max's real life children portray his children in this film.

The Greatest Story Ever Told (US, 1965) This is the movie that makes "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon" work: Pat Boone, Jose Ferrer, Charlton Heston, Martin Landau, Telly Savalis, Angela Landsbury, even John Wayne. Max may play the least Semetic Jesus ever. It's a tad long, much like the book, but it's pretty fun to play "spot the cameo."

The Seventh Seal (Sweden, 1957) Max plays the knight fresh home from the Crusades who plays chess with Death. Widely regarded as Ingmar Bergman's best film.

The Virgin Spring (Sweden, 1960) Rather than list all of Bergman's films, we've only listed two. This won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. But serious students of von Sydow should probably see them all.

Pelle the Conqueror (Denmark, 1989) Max was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor (losing to Dustin Hoffman for Rain Man), but the film won Best Foreign film in 1989.

Snow Falling on Cedars (US, 1999) Based on the popular book of the same name. The only movie he made in 1999, which is surprising, since he seems to average 4 projects a year.
© 1999 Universal Pictures
Dune (US, 1984) His part was small, but every sci/fi fan in the world should be familiar with this film.

Strange Brew (Canada, 1983) We can't respect Max enough for doing a Bob and Doug MacKenzie movie. Where else are you going to see him jeans, a flannel shirt and a toque? This is one of our favorites of Max's, because we're such hosers, eh?

Conan the Barbarian (US, 1982) He played King Osrik opposite Arnold Schwartzenegger. And neither foreign-sounding actor was dubbed. Sverre should have been so lucky.

Flash Gordon (US, 1980) Another one included just because it's such a recognizable film. Max plays the evil Emperor Ming. Not to be confused with Flesh Gordon.

Copyright © 2000, 2001 Emily Slatten; about framheim; about the pictures