As Nardine Saad of the Los Angeles Times alludes to, Max Von Sydow was an exceptional and gifted man when it came to acting, and the news of his passing doesn’t necessarily hit Hollywood with a massive a blow, but it does sadden a great many hearts to lose an individual that is this talented. Already it’s likely that it will be seen that columnists and journalists will be listing his best movies, his most triumphant performances, and so on and so forth. We’ll each remember Sydow in our own way, with the movies and roles that we recall the most and those that earned him the most acclaim. I do think I’ll break from that tradition and simply talk about the actor as I remember him, which is hopefully how others will see him as well. To many, Sydow was uniquely talented and created such likable and believable characters that made it possible to like him no matter what he did. Even in movies that didn’t necessarily shine that bright he became the bright spot that managed to shine in a big way and bring at least some interest to an otherwise lackluster picture. There are a number of people in Hollywood that can do this, but there are only a handful that allow us to remember movies that weren’t that great just because of one role and how wonderfully it was played.
One of the first selections I have might make people laugh since his part was short and not that easy to sit through without laughing just a bit since it was kind of over the top.
Personally, this is one of my earliest memories of Sydow and a favorite since Conan the Barbarian, like it or not, was a great movie for its time, and each person that played a part in the movie was great enough that they became a part of something memorable that would one day allow us to look back on it and smile. The part of the king whose daughter turned against him for the sorcerer Thulsa Doom, played by another great, James Earl Jones, was brief and very dramatic for a movie that was more about sword fights and sorcery, but it was still memorable since Max could deliver a line unlike many and make you believe in the veracity of it, and his character. This next clip is another favorite from another movie that might not be as well-regarded by many but is still a role that he nailed and, had the movie been any better, would have been even more perfect. Needful Things was a great Stephen King book, but the movie did lack the proper punch it needed.
The movie did have a lot of differences from the book and in a way this is a big reason that it kind of failed so badly, but all the same, casting Max as Leland Gaunt was a stroke of genius since he could play the peddler of rare items like none other. Had he been given even more leave to do as he could to make Gaunt even more evil it’s a belief that this movie could have been every bit as good as the book. As it was though he was the most entertaining individual in the movie since he wasn’t outright evil in his own way but he was a trickster and a peddler of wares that were essentially worthless but, thanks to the belief and gullibility of the townsfolk, were seen as priceless. The biggest trick of them all though was how he sowed so much discord among the populace by not asking for payment when selling his wares, but asking the people to pull pranks on each other that escalated quickly. In the book this eventually turned the town inside out, but in the movie things were resolved in a less than outstanding fashion as Leland Gaunt simply cruised out of town when his business was done. If a movie was ever made of this story again it would take a truly talented individual to do better than Sydow. One final memory though is one that a lot of people might recall, so long as they watched Game of Thrones.
His time as the Three-Eyed Raven on Game of Thrones was fairly brief and might not have received as much attention as many other characters but it did get him noticed once again as people were impressed to see him take on the role. Throughout long, long history in the movies and even on TV Max von Sydow has made a great many people happy and has entertained them in ways that has been nothing less than masterful as he made sure to make every role one of his best and give the people everything he had. Rest in peace sir, you’ll be missed.
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