Max Von Sydow


  1. Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings, 1960.    Pope John XXIII met producer Samuel Bronston and approved the script. – never knowing that scenarist Philip Yordansaw Jesus as a cowboy…! “Christ was a loner. He’s not much different than my usual character. The Western character. It’s the same character. The man alone.” And, indeed, while Bronston looked over the English Cushing and Alec Guinness, Scottish Tom Fleming (the BBC’s TV Jesus of Nazareth in 1956),Australian Keith Michel, Canadian Christopher Plummer and even Swedish  Max Von Sydow (who became George Stevens’ Christ in 1964) , he signed Hunter,  who .had made 16 Westerns, including two for the guy who recommended him: John Ford. Despite being, at 35, closer to Christ’s age than per usual in Schmollywood epics, Jeff was soon found himself labeled “I Was a Teenage Jesus”!
  2. Joseph Wiseman, Dr No, 1962.
  3. Omar Sharif, Doctor Zhivago, 1965.     As if Sharif was not boring enough…!  Kirk Douglas chased after  the Russian novel winning  the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. However, Rome producer Carlo Ponti secured the rights to Boris Pasternak’s book, based not only on Russia’s revolution and Stalin’s Great Purge of freedom,  but the married writer’s long affair with the poet Olga Ivinskaya.  Ponti signed David Lean to direct Mrs P, Sophia Loren as Olga. Or Lara by now.  “Too tall,” snapped Lean. They then started hunting their Yuri Zhivago through…  top Brits Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole; two Americans, Burt  Lancaster, Paul Newman; and a single Swede, Max von Sydow. Caine said he suggested Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia find, Egyptian Omar Sharif. 
  4. 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!
  5. Telly Savalas, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1968.
  6. Hardy Krüger, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1968.  Although firm friends after Ship of Fools, 1900, Oskar Werner and Hollywood producer-director Stanley Kramer never managed to get  back in  harness together  again, mainly due to scheduling issues. And by this time, Oskar was somewhat  peeved at being Hollywood’s top  go-to f guy or  German  ( and worse, Nazi)  officers.  Max von Sydow also refused Captain Von Prum in  what swiftly became the Anthony Quinn-Anna Magnani Show.
  7. Maximilian Schell, The Black Hole,1978.   One Swede (the Sewede),  three Germans and six Brits were dsicussed for Dr Hans Reinhardt – heading a mission aboard the US spaceship, Palomino, to find habitable spots in space. Max von Sydow; Anton Diffring, Curd Jürgens, Hardy Krüger; plus Harry Andrews, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Kemp, Hardy Kruger Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence and Patrick Troughton. This was Disney’s first attempt at science fiction – and a PG rating.  Never got it right until buying Lucasfilm and the Star Warsfranchise.  In 2014.
  8. 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.”
  9. 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 that they had made 14 films together – insisted on Max having a cut of the 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.

  10. 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!”
  11. Frank Finlay, Lifeforce, 1984.  
  12. Vincent Price, From a Whisper to a Scream (aka The Offspring), 1985. Von Sydow was also up for Julian White. But the (usually sequels) director Jeff Burr found it easier to contact and persuade Price into a two-day shoot. It was his Vinny’s last wortk and he was s not pleased with the result.
  13. F Murray Abraham, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, 1986.     French star Jean Rochefort was also considered for Bernardo Gui.
  14. Laurence Luckinbill, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, 1989.   
  15. Garry Marshall, A League of Their Own, 1991.   Long-time ball fan, director Penny Marshall had never heard of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954) until seeing a 1987 PBS documentary. She swiftly contacted the makers to join her Hollywood writers to use their title for a fictional comedy-drama version.  Penny staged baseball tests for about 2,000 actresses – if you can’t play ball, you can’t play the Rockford Peaches.  (Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty were best). Also on the plate for the AAGPBL founder were James  Coburn, Paul Newman, Max Von Sydov (!) and the too expensive Christopher Walken. Garry Marshall is Penny’s brother;  she also cast his daughter, Kathleen Marshall, as ‘Mumbles’ Brockman, and her own daughter Tracy Reiner as relief pitcher ‘Spaghetti’ Horn.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 2001-2003.
  19. David Kelly, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004.    Among Tim Burton’s Grandpa Joe choices… Two passed before passing: Gregory Peck and Peter Ustinov. Also in the loop: Richard Attenborough, Michael Caine, George Carlin (yes, not Carlin), Kirk Douglas, Albert Finney, Richard Griffiths, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lloyd (favourite of author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy), Ron Moody, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Paul Newman, Peter O’Toole, Eli Wallach, David Warner.   Burton finally gave the role to Kelly (“in three minutes”) on running into him at Pinewood studios on another film.
  20. Len Cariou, 1804, 2006.   Swedish director Mikael Håfström (Evil, 2002) tried to persuade the great Ingmar Bergman star to be John Cusack’s father – in the 81st of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits since Carrie in 1976.The closet Håfström ever got to the almighty Bergman was by also making a film called The Rite – not a patch on Bergman’s.  Naturally!

  21. 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.
  22. Christopher Plummer, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2011.
  23. Guy Pearce, Prometheus, 2011.      Ridley Scott wanted Max as Peter Weyland. Before realising Pearce can play just about anything!  This was Scott’s idea to help rid cinema of the bad odour of Alien v Predator.James
  24. Kurt Russell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2016.   Aged between Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow’s 87 and Matthew McConaughey’s 47,  fifteen actors were Marveled about for Ego, father of Chris Pratt’s hero, Peter Quill aka Star Lord.  The others in the  loop were Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Stephen Lang, Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christoph Waltz and Bruce Willis. 







 Birth year: 1929Death year: 2020Other name: Casting Calls:  24