Max Von Sydow, the iconic Swedish actor whose stern visage let his performances a commanding feel, passed away at the age of 90 in France. Known to modern audiences as the Three Eyed Raven from Game of Thrones, the Force-faithful Lor San Tekka from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or as the willful Father Merrin from The Exorcist, Von Sydow leaves behind a legacy as one of the most prominent international film actors to grace the silver screen.
A self-described "shy boy," he was baptized Carl Adolf von Sydow but later changed his name, saying that it was “not a good name” after World War II. In an interview he gave the Associated Press, he said, “When I started acting in an amateur group in high school, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I suddenly got a tool in my hand that was wonderful. 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 defense, and as an excuse.
“I think that for many years I used my profession as some kind of a mental therapy.”
One of his earliest and most memorable roles was in Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, where he plays a knight retunring from the Crusades with his faith broken, who later finds himself playing chess with Death for his very life.
This would not be the first time Von Sydow would tackle roles dealing with faith and the mysteries of creation. In 1965, he took the role of Jesus Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Due to his height and his imposing frame, Von Sydow often was cast in villainous roles. He portrayed the SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavo Blofeld in Never Say Never Again, starring Sean Connery as Bond.
In a more fanciful turn of villainy, Von Sydow portrayed the sinister Ming the Merciless in the sci-fi pulp pastiche Flash Gordon.
With all these roles in famous films, it would be remiss to neglect his most famous turn as the demon-hunting Catholic priest Father Merrin in The Exorcist. The actor endured several hours of make up each day to craft his character an aging priest who teaches the doubting Father Karras about faith while facing the demon possessing Regan McNeil.
After playing a Catholic priest, a crusading knight, and Jesus of Nazareth, there was no other direction an actor like Von Sydow could go but down, as he did in his portrayal of the Devil in the adaption of Stephen King's story Needful Things.
For modern audiences, Max Von Sydow is best known as the Three Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones.
Flash Gordon would not be his final turn in a major science fiction film. Max Von Sydow was in the opening scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Speaking about his craft, Von Sydow said, "Movies give me an opportunity to go places. I'm not only a Swede but an American, not just a man of my time, but I've been living 2,000 years ago-and not just in a new country, America, but in the Holy Land, too." A fantastic testimony to a wonderful actor.