2015 Ingmar Bergman Lifetime Achievement Award: Max von Sydow


This award is named after Bergman because when I was set to establish an award of its type his last film blew me away and was nominated for many awards. The idea then is that it’s not a parting shot but rather recognition of someone still very much at the top after many, many years.

2015 Max von Sydow


I like these awards to come around almost by osmosis. I considered another way for Bergman-connected people: like Liv Ullmann, unfortunately I did not see her most recent film (as director).

It seemed like a stretch to pick Max von Sydow, as someone active this year only in the very beginning of the new Star Wars, but as I thought about it it started making more and more sense. He’s been considered before and was part of a BAM-nominated cast this year.

In the future, he will be the human embodiment of Bran’s raven on Game of Thrones.

Winter Light (1963)

He has connections with other liftetime winners: He co-Starred with Werner Herzog in What Dreams May Come, was in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, 14 feature films with Ingmar Bergman himself and Best Intentions based on Bergman’s novel, Sleepless with Dario Argento, and Minority Report with Steven Spielberg.

In a year with another sub-par Bond, it made me long for old Bond films and von Sydow was Blofeld in Never Say Never Again.

Considering that Robin Williams passed well before his time, and the seemingly-immortal Christopher Lee did as well, it’s not too late but about time to honor Max von Sydow. He clearly has well-earned longevity of his career on his side with credits in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, ‘10s; in other words consecutive decades. He’s 86 years old, and debuted at 22 in Miss Julie (1951).


He was Oscar nominated in 1989 and 2012 (most recently for Extremely loud and Incredibly Close), Golden Globes in 1967 and 1974, Emmy in 1990.

Yet more impressive are his list of credits I’ve not even mentioned yet.

  • Shutter Island
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Leland Gaunt in Needful Things; perfection of casting imperfection of adaptation
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Ghostbusters II
  • Pelle the Conqueror
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Flash Gordon

He went from something like Winter Light to playing Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told to being Father Merrin in The Exorcist.

His credits are multi-lingual.

Even the blind spots I have with him are well-regarded:

  • Tudors
  • Dune
  • Dreamscape
  • Ice Pirates
  • Three Days of the Condor
  • Steppenwolf
  • New Land
  • Emigrants



His voice has even featured in games like Skyrim and Ghostbusters.

When I discovered he was going to be on Game of Thrones my reaction was simply “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow,” which was frequently how I reacted to his performances.

Max von Sydow is a true living legend.