Max von Sydow may play a man who refuses to speak in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” but in real-life he had a lot to say about this film and his Oscar nomination when we sat down to chat. Earlier in the day, he had attended the nominees luncheon where he was singled out for a standing ovation. “To get that recognition from my peers means so much,” he admits.
His only disappointment was that rival Supporting Actor nominee Christopher Plummer (“Beginners”) was not there: “We made two films together (“Dreamscape” and “Emotional Arithmetic”) and it would have been nice to see him.”
Von Sydow says he responded immediately to Eric Roth‘s script which he shared with his wife, French filmmaker Catherine Brelet: “We both read it and found it a very interesting, very compelling story.” Fluent in three languages (Swedish, English, French) and conversant in two others (German, Italian), he reveals, “I was fascinated by this fellow, the Renter, who had such a complicated life. He put this yoke on himself for the rest of his life after he was not killed with the rest of his family in the bombing of Dresden during World War II.”
Having made more than 110 films, the actor says he welcomed the challenge of playing a character who communicates without words. “It was a chance to try something different. It is lovely to get a part you have never done before. So often you get scripts where it is the same category of character.”
Von Sydow was not wary of working with rookie actor Thomas Horn, the 14-year-old “Jeopardy” champion who makes his film debut as a boy dealing with the death of his father (Tom Hanks) in the World Trade Center on 9/11. “He is very bright, very clever. I know that he worked very hard with Stephen (Daldry) on his performance.”
He had a similar experience working with a child actor on “Pelle the Conqueror,” which earned him an Best Actor Oscar bid in 1988. He recalls that Hanks was one of the other nominees in the category — they both lost to Dustin Hoffman (“Rain Man”) — and describes him as, “a great talent who brings this warmth and humor to his work.”
While disappointed that they did not get get a chance to act together in the film, he says
Hanks was a strong presence during a pivotal scene. “His is the voice of the son I have never seen and it is being played for me on the answering machine by my grandson who does not know who I am.” As he admits, “that was a complex and moving moment for me as an actor.”