Max von Sydow, Swedish Star of ‘The Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90


More typically, though, and to his mounting frustration, he played the villain — a neo-Nazi in “The Quiller Memorandum” (1966), a power-hungry Russian in “The Kremlin Letter” (1970), a fedora-wearing hired assassin in “Three Days of the Condor” (1975), the otherworldly emperor Ming the Merciless in the cartoonish “Flash Gordon” (1980), the archenemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” (1983).

More challenging roles awaited him back in Sweden, and in the late 1960s he returned there to make another series of films with Bergman and another master Swedish director, Jan Troell. He appeared in Bergman’s “Hour of the Wolf” (1968), “Shame” (1968), “The Passion of Anna” (1969) and “The Touch” (1971) and went on to star with Liv Ullmann in “The Emigrants” (1971) and “The New Land” (1972), Mr. Troell’s two-part saga about 19th-century Swedish settlers in the United States.

Mr. von Sydow made his Broadway debut in 1977 as the star of “The Night of the Tribades,” a play by Per Olov Enquist about the Swedish writer August Strindberg. Despite a cast that also included Eileen Atkins and Bibi Andersson (another Bergman mainstay), the production ran for less than two weeks.

Broadway theatergoers had another brief encounter with Mr. von Sydow in 1981, when he starred with Anne Bancroft in “Duet for One,” Tom Kempinski’s drama about the cellist Jacqueline du Pre, whose career was cut short by multiple sclerosis. Mr. von Sydow played the kindly therapist who tries to help her through her depression.

That play, too, had only a short run, but there were better things to come for Mr. von Sydow, almost all of them on film.

In another role with psychological depth, in “The Flight of the Eagle” (1983), directed by Mr. Troell, he was the leader of an ill-fated party of explorers who try to fly over the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon. Writing in The Times, Vincent Canby described the movie, an Academy Award nominee for best foreign-language film, as “so good that it makes one want to know more.”

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