Max von Sydow

Minority Report

Interviewed by David Michael

He's played chess with the Grim Reaper in "The Seventh Seal" and battled with the Devil in "The Exorcist". Now the 73-year-old actor is playing Director Burgess in Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report"...

Considering you've worked with some great directors, how did Steven Spielberg compare?

The idea of working with Steven Spielberg was of course very attractive. He's such a master. He knows the language of the camera and of film-making, which gives him such a great freedom. He knows not only his craft so well, but also the subject of the story he's telling, so he can also improvise - and that is a lot of fun. He gives the actors a lot of freedom and we like that - most of us.

I read you were in semi-retirement? How far into retirement are you, and what lures you out of it?

I'm not in retirement. I just don't want to work so much, and I don't get that many offers any more. I don't get leading parts any more, which is natural because the audience is a young audience and they are not interested in guys like me. The offers I get are for minor parts - grandfathers, uncles, that sort of thing - and they often die very quickly in the script. I accept a role only if it's something that I really, really like. I just feel I shouldn't work too much, because there are so many other things to do.

There was a strict policy of secrecy on the set - nobody could talk about the movie. How do you react to that?

I understand that, because it's a thriller; if you know too much you ruin the effect of it. What Spielberg says is it's his first thriller; he'd never made a thriller before and he's a great admirer of Hitchcock. I think, in fact, he had studied Hitchcock's technique, his way of telling his thrillers. It's a matter of not giving away too much too early, and it's also a matter of giving false leads to make the audience believe something else.