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Von Sydow (90), star of art house films and 'The Exorcist', is dead



‘Shy boy’: Max von Sydow used acting as a ‘shield’

‘Shy boy’: Max von Sydow used acting as a ‘shield’


‘Shy boy’: Max von Sydow used acting as a ‘shield’

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 film fans worldwide when he played the priest in the horror classic 'The Exorcist', has died. He was 90.

His agent Jean Diamond said the actor, who was born in Sweden but became a French citizen in 2002, died the previous day in France.

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 Oscar 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 tall Swede was a mainstay of nearly a dozen classic, angst-ridden films by Bergman, including 'Wild Strawberries', 'Shame' and 1957's '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.

Von Sydow made his Hollywood debut as Jesus in the 1965 film 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', but gained global fame as the devil-evicting priest in William Friedkin's controversial 1973 film 'The Exorcist'.

While his characters were often sinister, tormented or evil, the soft-spoken Von Sydow said he became an actor to defeat his shyness.

"I was a very shy boy," he said. "When I started acting in an amateur group in high school, I was allowed to express all kinds of strange things that I never dared to express before. Now I could do it with the character as a shield, as a defence and as an excuse."

Irish Independent