Sydow’s agent, Jean Diamond confirmed the actor had passed away in Provence, France where he became a citizen in 2002 following his second marriage.
An online outpouring celebrated his long career while reflecting the variety of roles Sydow took in the realm of film, television and video games.
Sydow was born on April 10, 1929 in Sweden where he changed his first name from “Carl Adolf” to “Max” following the end of the Second World War.
His moniker became credited across various roles in child theater and took a major step by enrolling at the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm, Sweden.
His career in acting began at age 20, taking his first role in Swedish drama Only a Mother before breaking out as notable character Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal.
Sydow transitioned into mainstream American film in 1965 as audiences watched him in The Greatest Story Ever Told, a biblical re-telling of Jesus Christ. He later solidified himself in 1973 horror cult classic The Exorcist and its sequel as Father Lankester Merrin.
Flash Gordon fans could also remember Sydow as Emperor Ming the Merciless in the franchises’ first film, starring alongside Sam Jones in the title role.
As Jones became an icon in the 80s, Sydow continued to become involved in other cult films. He worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger as King Osiric in Conan the Barbarian while taking on the voice role of a ghost in Ghostbusters II.
Though in a short appearance, Sydow became galactic sage and resistance ally Lor San Tekka in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, later reprising him in its LEGO game adaptation.
Players might also come to him for knowledge in Skyrim as Esbern. In the game, Sydow could also be recruited as a follower if adventurers completed enough side quests and defeated a dragon.
Sydow was nominated for Best Actor in 1989 for his role in Swedish-Danish drama Pelle the Conqueror (later winning the award in the Swedish Guldbagge Awards). In 2012, he gained a second nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, coming behind Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained.
In an Associated Press interview, Sydow claimed acting helped tackle his “shyness” with others since he was growing up. Through different roles, he expressed himself in different emotions “as a shield, as a defence and as an excuse.”