Cannes Winner Per Oscarsson Feared Dead in House Fire

Per Oscarsson, Hunger
Per Oscarsson, Hunger

The year of 2011 begins with a likely tragedy for the movie world: According to reports, a Friday, Dec. 31, house fire may have killed veteran Swedish actor Per Oscarsson, 83, winner of the Best Actor award at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival for his performance as a late-19th century, mentally unbalanced, starving writer in Henning Carlsen's Hunger.

The remains of one person were found amid the ashes of the house located outside the town of Skara in southwest Sweden. It's still unclear if those are Oscarsson's or, perhaps, his 67-year-old wife Kia Ostling's. Both had been reported missing by relatives. [Addendum: On Jan. 5, police confirmed that the remains found in the house were those of Oscarsson and his wife.]

Born in Stockholm on Jan. 28, 1927, Oscarsson appeared numerous stage productions (including the title role in Hamlet), nearly 90 motion pictures, and 50 television productions. Among his best-known films are Åke Falck's Adam and Eva (1963), Laslo Benedek's The Night Visitor (1971), Jan Troell's Oscar-nominated The New Land (1972), and Dusan Makavejev's Montenegro (1981).

In addition to his Cannes win, Hunger earned Oscarsson the Best Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics, the Bodil Award from Danish Film Critics, and the Best Actor Golden Beetle, the Swedish equivalent of the Academy Award.

Most recently, Oscarsson played Lisbeth Salander's legal guardian, Holger Palmgren, in Daniel Alfredson's The Girl Who Played with Fire, based on book two of Stieg Larsson's popular Millennium trilogy. His (apparent) last film should be released in 2011, Görel Crona's Tysta leken.

He also directed two features, Ebon Lundin (1973) and Sweden for the Swedes (1980). His wife Kia Ostling was his assistant director in the latter film.

Curiously, Oscarsson never made a film with Ingmar Bergman, though he played in films featuring several Bergman stars including Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Eva Dahlbeck, Ingrid Thulin, and Gunnel Lindblom.

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