Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Legendary Max Von Sydow (Part 1)

I had intended for this interview to be in podcast format but had some audio problems in the noisy Pierre Hotel. Have transcribed for your listening reading pleasure.

I have shaken hands with one or two major stars in my time writing for The Film Experience but never before have I shared a banquette with a cinematic legend whose films have already survived the passage of time. If you think of actors as the characters they play --and the great Max Von Sydow suggests that you don't -- then you will note that I survived a chat with Jesus himself, the devil, Emperor Ming, Pelle the Conqueror and many more luminaries this Friday past.


As an icebreaker I greeted Mr. von Sydow and his wife, both of who were fantastically friendly and talkative, in my broken Norwegian and we discussed Sweden a bit. Much to my Nordic pleasure Mr. von Sydow actually said the word "uff" (one of my favorite Scandinavian words) within seconds. I can't possibly think of an intro that would do one of Ingmar Bergman's most important muses justice so let's proceed directly to the interview...

Nathaniel: Well, it's a pleasure to meet you. You're a legendary figure in cinema –I'm sure you've heard that over and over...

Max Von Sydow: Uff.

Nathaniel: I want to talk about Bergman –well, are you tired of talking about Bergman at this point?

Max Von Sydow: Noooo. I'm not tired of --I'm tired about talking about myself! [laughter]

N: All right. Well, let's start with Diving Bell and then we'll go back to some earlier work. First of all with The Diving Bell and Butterfly I wanted to say that I completely loved your performance. I'm not a big cryer in the movies...

MVS: No?

N: ...but you totally got to me. Lately I've been really fascinated with actors who can project backstory with family members –fictional family members-- onscreen. So I was wondering how you prepare for something like that? You only had a couple of scenes with Mathieu Amalric.

MVS: Two scenes.

N: So how do you project father/son?

MVS: Well, it's... it—it just happens to be a very good screenplay. And the scenes –my scene-- is wonderfully written. I get screenplays and I'm rarely happy reading them but this one was... it was a sheer pleasure. I was so excited after having read it, I wrote a letter to Ron Harwood. I've never done that. I met him later in Los Angeles and he told me 'I've never got a letter like this before!' [Laughter]

N: He's a fine writer.

MVS: He's a good writer, yes. What is beautiful with my character -- the things is, although it's a small part, I get a chance to show two things: The relationship between the characters under normal circumstances when he shaves me but then also after the catastrophe and the confusion and bewilderment --this awkward strange situation...

And how do I prepare? It's a matter of finding out: who is this character?

READ THE REST...
for more on his acting process, working with Sjöberg and Ingmar Bergman and acting styles in the 50s. Part 2 is now up as well. We go deeper into Bergman, Woody Allen and von Sydow's feelings about why acting is mysterious to the public and how actors get typecast.
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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Holy moly! I didn't know you were getting this gig, but huge congratulations!

Look forward to reading more.

In awe,
Rob

NATHANIEL R said...

there's two pages up now (don't miss the second. I forgot to upload it as i was putting this up)

two more pages (the finale) as soon as i'm done transcribing. Probably tonight.tomorrow

Catherine said...

How did you get to interview him? :O

I was just thinking about his part in Hannah and her Sisters yesterday.

NATHANIEL R said...

we talk about hannah and her sisters in part 2. stay tuned

Stephen G said...

Great interview, Nat. Refreshing to read an interview from someone with knowledge about the subject's movies!

Did you ever see Hawaii (1966)? MVS is terrific (opp. Julie Andrews!) in an unlikeable role in an expensive flop that nevertheless produced an unlikely Supp Actress nominee in Jocelyne LaGarde and 6 technical noms. According to IMDB, Hawaii was LaGarde's only film appearance (she didn't speak English and learnt her lines phonetically).

Aaron said...

You are asking excellent, informed questions, Nathaniel. Very well done. I should expect nothing less, of course, but I am, nevertheless, very impressed.

Sammy Jo said...

What an amazing opportunity! Kudos.
I can't wait for part two.

Alison Flynn said...

Thank you for posting this. This is such an interesting interview and you asked great questions. You really know your subject. I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

John T said...

I actually just watched Winter Light yesterday-this is fascinating stuff Nat! Well done!

Robert said...

I am so insanely jealous of you right now.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathaniel,


Really loved your interview with Max Von Sydow. Congratulations!

I'm interested to know what are your thoughts about Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Southland Tales!

Brazilian anom

Kamikaze Camel said...

Impressive, indeed!

Burbanked said...

Wonderful job, Nathaniel! This is a terrific, engaging interview with a man who's acted in some truly landmark pieces of cinema history. You should be terrifically proud of this piece.

Anonymous said...

it's Julie Ann Smith's birthday today....
(Julianne Moore: greatest living american actress)