Max Von Sydow
- Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings, 1961. Feisty director Nicholas Ray worked his way through, Richard Burton, Peter Cushing, Christopher Plummer and Max before voting Hunter. A year later, Max was Christ, after all, in the (somewhat) better Greatest Story Ever Told (not released until 1965).
- Joseph Wiseman, Dr No, 1962.
- Omar Sharif, Doctor Zhivago, 1965. As if Sharif was not boring enough…! Majestic director David Lean’s first idea was killed by MGM insisting that the Ingmar Bergman star was (a) Jesus Christ to filmgoers ever since The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965,and (b) too cold.
- Cyril Cusack, Fahrenheit 451, 1966. He had enough pressures - first film in colour, first in English, a lingo he was far from confident with… And French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut also suffered four years of casting hurdles…. starting with Paul Newman as the fireman hero, Montag. When feeling Ray Bradbury’s story was too important to be shot in English(!), the réalisateur tried his past and future stars, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo - and Oskar Werner as Montag’s boss. Producer Lewis Allen wanted Sterling Hayden in either role; or Von Sydow, Richard Burton, Albert Finney, Laurence Olivier, Peter O’Toole, Michael Redgrave as the captain. Producer Sam Spiegel even tried muscling in by promising Burton… bossing a Robert Redford and loving Elizabeth Taylor! Enter: the head of the Cusack movie clan: actors Catherine, Maureen (his wife), Niamh, Sinéad Sorcha, producer Pádraig and director Paul. And son-in-law Jeremy Irons!
- Telly Savalas, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1968.
Nicol Williamson, Excalibur, 1981. Named for Merlin for the project in 1976. Five years on, director JohnBoorman had what Helen Mirren called an inspired idea: casting her opposite her ex-lover. “I think Boorman knew that Mr Williamson and I could not stand each other and Boorman thought it would be great to see that on-screen. I think he was right Although it took quite a bit for me to agree to do it - and I am sure that was in equal measure on Nicol’s part as well.”
- Jan Malmsjö, Fanny och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander, Sweden, 1981.
Max was furious about losing Ingmar Bergman’s penulitimate cinema film... All because of a greedy agent. The Swedish genius created the evil Bishop Edvard Vergérus for Max. Unknown to Bergman, Max keen to rejoin his mentor for the first time since Beröribgen/The Touch,1991.But he was in LA where his agent - who didn’t seem to know they had made 14 films together - insisted on Max having a cut of the film's profits, on top of his salary. Impossible, said Bergman’s tight-reined producers. By the time Max found out about the stupid demands, Bergman had selected Malmsjö. Said the song-dance man: Why me? “Well, I sense some hidden dark and evil streaks inside you, Jan. You have it, I have it, all of us have.” Certainly, Max’s agent did.
- EG Marshall, Creepshow, 1982. Problem was not author Stephen King’s Bugs tale, but The F Word. “The word came back...” King told me in Cannes. “I mean this is the way things go. ‘Yes, the price is... er... obtainable. But he will not swear in the movie.’ EG Marshall never hesitated. He was right there!”
- Frank Finlay, Lifeforce, 1984. A search began for German actors (hello, Anton Diffring!) or those who could play German. Result: 22 possibilities… Bernard Archard, John Bennett, Dirk Bogarde, Nigel Davenport, Denholm Elliott, Michael Gough, Bernard Hepton, Trevor Howard, Freddie Jones, Klaus Kinski, Hardy Kruger, Herbert Lom, James Mason (ah, Rommel!), Donald Pleasence, Cifford Rose Leonard Rossitier, Maximilian Schell, Vladek Sheybal, Robert Stephens. And so, probably without him knowing, Von Sydow (hey, an accent is an accent) was listed for Dr Hans Fallada, an expert of - get this! - life after death. And all the time, US director Hooper knew it didn’t matter a damn who played what guy as all eyes would be on Mathilda May - resplendently naked for almost the entire 116 minutes. (A rare accomplishment, swiftly copied the following year by another Parisienne, Patricia Barzyk - Miss France 1980 - in Jean-Pierre Mocky’s La machine à découdre). After all that… web critic Stephanie Scaife denounced it as “completely batshit insane.”
- F Murray Abraham, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, 1986. French star Jean Rochefort was also considered for Bernardo Gui.
- Laurence Luckinbill, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989. First choice for Sybok: Sean Connery Next choice: Von Sydow. Luckinbill is the real-life son-in-law of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, whose Desilu Productions made the first two Star Trek, seasons 1966-1967.
- Giancarlo Giannini, Mimic, 1996. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro first approached the Ingmar Bergman superstar for the role of - what, you say? - an old shoeshine guy! Max not only brushed aside the offer, he told Del Toro to quit fantasy. Well, the poor Swedish veteran had just finished Judge Dredd.
- Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules, 1999. Caine scored his second Oscar as Dr Wilbur Larch. And this time, he was there to receive it.
- David Kelly, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004. Among Tim Burton’s dozen of Grandpa Joe choices. Two passed before passing (Gregory Peck, Peter Ustinov) and he gave it to the veteran Irish actor (“in three minutes,” said Kelly) on running into him at Pinewood studios for a costume fitting for another film. Also considered: Von Sydow, Richard Attenborough, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lloyd, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Paul Newman, Eli Wallach, David Warner.
- Christopher Plummer, Beginners, 2009. The aged father who came out of the closest and into a gay relationship after his wife’s death was all too swiftly rejected by the Swedish icon.He didn’t like the subject (all true; Hal was based on director Mike Mills’ father). Perhaps Max saw more possible Oscar glory as the mute in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Both men were nominated as support actors andMax lost his gamble when Plummer became the oldest Oscar-winner at age 82.
- Christopher Plummer, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2011.
- Guy Pearce, Prometheus, 2011. Ridley Scott had wanted Von Sydow to play Peter Weyland. Until realising Pearce can play just about anything!