But he invariably made his minutes on screen count, whether guiding young star-warriors in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) or stepping in as the Three-Eyed Raven to guide young Bran Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones.
Von Sydow, who became Bergman's symbol for the modern man in such films as "The Passion of Anna" and "Shame" after making his Bergman debut as the errant knight in "The Seventh Seal", also had an unusually prolific career in Hollywood and global films. He famously starred as Father Merrin, the conflicted priest struggling to retain his faith, in The Exorcist - a role he reprised in sequel Exorcist II: The Heretic. From there, he worked with legendary directors like Woody Allen (Hannah And Her Sisters), David Lynch (Dune), and Sydney Pollack (Three Days of the Condor). He also recited lines as Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters: The Video Game and Lor San Tekka in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The imagination of Hollywood producers being less than boundless, acting's elder statesmen tend to be given mostly bit parts at the end of their careers, and von Sydow - who played old before his time - was no exception.
The "Game of Thrones" actor - whose real name was Carl Adolf von Sydow - passed away at his home in France on Sunday at the age of 90, his agent, Jean Diamond, has confirmed.
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Von Sydow was born April 10, 1929, into a family of academics in the southern Swedish city of Lund.
The actor collected two Oscar nominations throughout his long career.
While his characters were often sinister, tormented or evil, the soft-spoken von Sydow said he became an actor to overcome his own shyness.
Max married late actress Christina Inga Britta Olin back in 1951, and they went on to have two sons Clas and Henrik. In 1997 he married Brelet and in 2002 became a citizen of her native France.