Actor Erland Josephson, frequent Bergman collaborator, dies at 88


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Erland Josephson, the noted Swedish stage and screen actor who collaborated frequently with Ingmar Bergman in both mediums, has died at 88. He died Saturday at a Stockholm hospital following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Christina Bjerkander, a spokeswoman for Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre, told the Associated Press.

Josephson was widely regarded as one of the most important figures in Swedish theater. During his career, he acted in numerous productions, some of which traveled to the U.S., and headed the Royal Dramatic Theatre between 1966 and 1975.


Noted for his warm presence that could turn prickly and hostile on a dime, Josephson was a versatile actor whose roles often allowed him to combine a sense of insecure masculinity and a razor-sharp intelligence.

His first collaboration with Bergman was as a 16-year-old actor in a production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ He would continue to work with Bergman on stage and screen for the next seven decades, becoming one of the director’s most frequent collaborators, along with Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow.

Josephson joined the Royal Dramatic Theatre -- Sweden’s most prestigious theater company -- in 1956, and performed there in more than 60 productions. So dedicated was Josephson to the stage that he continued to work in theater well into his later years. He had a supporting role in Bergman’s stage production of Friedrich Schiller’s ‘Maria Stuart’ that traveled to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2002.

Josephson was also a playwright, with several titles to his name. In 2006, his play ‘The Flower Pickers’ was staged at the Royal Dramatic Theatre.

His other stage roles included an acclaimed production of Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard,’ directed by Peter Brooks, that traveled to New York in 1988.

Like Bergman, Josephson was first and foremost dedicated to the stage, but he made frequent detours into cinema. (Bergman once said that theater was his wife and the cinema was his mistress; the same could be said for Josephson.) Their film collaborations included ‘Scenes from a Marriage,’ ‘Cries and Whsipers,’ ‘Face to Face’ and ‘Fanny and Alexander.’


Josephson reprised his ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ role in Bergman’s final screen project, the television movie ‘Sarabande,’ in 2003.

A full obituary will follow on


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-- David Ng