At this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, we had the chance to sit in on a few conversations with the legendary Max von Sydow. As part of the festival’s tribute to the actor, TCM screened two excellent von Sydow films – the existential and cinephile must-see “The Seventh Seal” and the 1970s spy thriller “Three Days of the Condor” (both featured in our The Essentials: 5 Great Max von Sydow Performances). During the introductions to these films, the Swedish actor discussed his career, the directors he had worked with and what’s next on his plate with TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz and Robert Osborne, respectively.
On Ingmar Bergman:
“It was a continuous, very inspiring working relationship… He had a talent of making his actors getting into the parts with 100% attention, not always with 100% respect or it was a matter of not being too impressed of this fantastic character you were going to play. It was a matter of pulling down the character to your level and then finding out who he was really and what he wanted to do. Ingmar Bergman had a great sense of humor and he had a very special, characteristic laugh that you always recognized — if he went to watch a theater show, ‘Ah! He is here tonight.’ He had a profound enthusiasm and that’s what he managed to give all of us.”
On Woody Allen:
“I got the impression that when I first met him that he was a bit scared of the first day. He wasn’t there. I hadn’t met him before the production started. Went to say ‘Good Morning’ to the director and say how do you do and what are we going to do with this. So I saw him over there, in the back of the studio, and then he disappeared. So then he was over there, so I started walking, but he disappeared… Until he finally put up the camera and all the stuff that was needed for the first take, then he couldn’t escape anymore, so we finally met, very close to the camera, and it was the beginning of a very nice period and I enjoyed very much playing in that film [‘Hannah and Her Sisters‘]. I was sorry that it didn’t take longer, but I am a great admirer of Woody Allen and I hope he will continue forever.”
On Playing Jesus in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”:
“That is the problem. When you have made an impression with something, in this case with Jesus. [laughter] Many people think that, ‘Ah! He must be a very serious person, must be very religious, and of course, he has worked with this Mr. Bergman, who of course also must be very religious. So okay, we have a part here – a fisherman. Why don’t we ask Mr. von Sydow?’ So they keep asking me and I don’t know how many priests or clergyman I’ve been offered to play. I have done a few, but not at all as many as I have been offered. I played a pope even. For some reason, casting directors do not always have very much imagination.”
For all of you reading “tribute” and “TCM” and worrying about a retirement announcement (Peter O’Toole retired roughly a year after his TCM Classic Film Festival tribute), don’t. That is not happening anytime soon for Max von Sydow, if these conversations were any indication. At the ripe age of 84, von Sydow is still raring to go from receiving an Oscar nomination for his role in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” only two years ago to future – hush, hush – projects. “I cannot tell you. I do not know. We’re talking a lot about something, I don’t know yet… It’s a wonderful story and it’s a wonderful character.” Well, we at The Playlist look forward to anything the legendary actor has in store.