Obituary: Actor Erland Josephson, 1923-2012

Erland Josephson in 2006.

Erland Josephson, a sturdy and distinguished Swedish actor best known for his frequent collaborations with legendary film and theater director Ingmar Bergman (Smiles of a Summer Night), passed away on Saturday, February 25, at the age of 88.

Josephson, who died at a Stockholm hospital, had long been suffering from Parkinson’s disease, according to a spokeswoman from Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre, where he had been the managing director from 1966 to 1975.

Born in 1923 in Stockhoom to a family deeply involved in the arts (his relatives included composers, painters and a theater director who had worked with playwright August Strinberg), Josephson never had any formal acting education. But that didn’t stop him from embarking on an frequent “dramatic” collaborations with Bergman, which began in the late 1930s when Bergman directed him in a municipal stage production of The Merchant of Venice in Gothenburg. Several years later, Josephson’s first-ever movie appearance was in Bergman’s second film, 1946’s It Rains on Our Love.

Josephson would ultimately be the actor who had the longest-running collaboration with Bergman, appearing in dozens of the director’s plays and films, including The Magician (1958), Face to Face (1976), and Fanny and Alexander (1982).

Following his lauded star turn in Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage (1973), Josephson began to appear in number of prestigious international productions, including Italian director Liliana Cavani’s 1977 film Beyond Good and Evil, Philip Kaufman’s 1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Andrey Tarkovsky’s 1980s films Nostalghia (1983) and The Sacrifice (1986).

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.