Bo Brundin, the Swedish actor best known for his turn as a demoralized German World War I pilot opposite Robert Redford in the aerial adventure film The Great Waldo Pepper, has died. He was 85.
Brundin died Sunday in his hometown of Uppsala in Sweden, a spokesperson for Paar Productions told The Hollywood Reporter. The company worked with the actor on one of his last projects, the 2011 short film Starlight, in which he played God.
Brundin appeared in an early stage production of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal — his role would be taken by Max Von Sydow in the classic 1957 feature — and he had a small role as a political prisoner in The Day the Clown Cried (1972), the infamous never-released film from Jerry Lewis.
Brundin, who played lots of Germans and Russians during his career, also appeared on the big screen in the X-rated Around the World With Fanny Hill (1974), Shoot the Sun Down (1978), Meteor (1979) — where his ill-fated character is instrumental in saving the world — and Raise the Titanic (1980).
And in the acclaimed 1976 ABC miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, Brundin was Harold Jordache, an uncle of the brothers portrayed by Nick Nolte and Peter Strauss.
In Universal Pictures’ The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), co-written and directed by George Roy Hill, Brundin played Ernst Kessler, a disillusioned German pilot who’s now doing stunt work in a film based on his life. He and Redford’s Waldo get uber-serious during a staged dogfight in the movie’s climatic scene that leaves each respecting the other.
“It was a little scary because there was a real crash just about an hour before I went up for the first time,” Brundin recalled in a 2015 interview. “I saw the crash, and [stuntman] Frank Tallman had his forehead split. It took three weeks in the hospital. … We used the Tiger Moth plane, which was a great plane except it’s a little clumsy. It’s like a little elephant in the air.”
Paul Newman ran his Oscar campaign that year, according to the Paar Productions spokesperson.
Born Bo Rosenquist on April 25, 1937, he decided to pursue acting as a profession after he was cast as a bearded crusader in Bergman’s amateur production of Wood Painting, eventually to be reworked as The Seventh Seal.
Brundin headed to New York with $300 and would spend a decade in the city, often struggling to make ends meet. He called it “the best time of my life.”
“I lived all over Manhattan,” he recalled. “I even lived in Hell’s Kitchen. In the apartment above me was Robert Duvall, and he was struggling then, too. The fanciest place I lived was in the Dakota. … We used to get together once a week and read plays, and at one of them was Dustin Hoffman. It was the time when he had given up acting. He said, ‘Bo, I can’t get a job. Five years I’ve been beating my head against the wall and nothing happens.’ He said he thought he could teach comedy. Next time I saw him was outside the Plaza hotel, and he was filming a scene from Midnight Cowboy.”
Brundin joined the Poor People’s Theater, led by actress Trish Van Devere, landed on a 1968 episode of ABC’s N.Y.P.D. and starred in A Baltic Tragedy (1970) and as a demented killer who gouges out the eyes of young women in the horror film The Headless Eyes (1971).
In addition to Rich Man, Poor Man, Brundin appeared in three other ’70s miniseries — The Rhinemann Exchange, The Word and Centennial — and showed up on The Bionic Woman, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Hawaii Five-O, Wonder Woman, Manimal, The A-Team, Dallas and Falcon Crest.
His last Swedish feature was Strawberries With Real Milk (2001). He returned to live in his native country in 2013 and spent his final years mentoring young actors.
Watch a tribute to his work here.