We pay tribute to one of Sweden’s greatest stars
On Tuesday 27th June, Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist passed away, following a tragic battle with lung cancer for more than a year. Together with his wife Catharina and children, Ellen and Arthur, Nyqvist leaves behind a legacy in the arts which will not be forgotten.
Born Rolf Åke Mikael Nyqvist in Stockholm in 1960, the actor started his illustrious career treading the boards at Sweden’s Malmö Theatre Academy. However, originally pursuing a passion for hockey which ended abruptly following a debilitating injury, Nyqvist didn’t consider acting until he starred in a school production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, as part of an international exchange trip to Nebraska, USA.
Nordic Noir enthusiasts will know him best from his 2011 International Emmy-nominated role as Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Starring with Noomi Rapace as one of the genre’s leading heroines, Lisbeth Salander, the duo redefined the global literary phenomenon of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on screen. Although, we can look back at the actor’s earlier Nordic Noir appearance as a regular cast member in the very first season of Beck, with Peter Haber and Mikael Persbrandt.
Nyqvist’s cinematic talents have been honoured with a Best Actor win at the Gijón International Film Festival for Together (2000), featuring Ola Rapace and Shanti Roney. For the 2002 comedy drama, The Guy in the Grave Next Door, written by Kjell Sundvall (The Hunters and False Trail), Nyqvist also won Best Actor at Sweden’s prestigious Guldbagge Awards the following year. At the Chicago International Film Festival in 2004, Nyqvist joined his fellow castmates as part of the Best Ensemble Award for Day and Night, which included Mikael Persbrandt, Pernilla August, Tuva Novotny and Fares Fares.
In addition to his overwhelming success in his homeland, Nyqvist achieved global acclaim in Hollywood blockbusters, appearing as Tom Cruise’s antagonist in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Keanu Reeves’ arch nemesis in the first chapter of John Wick, opposite Daniel Brühl and Emma Watson in the religious thriller The Colony, and with Dominic Monaghan in the Swedish-US crime miniseries 100 Code.
His upcoming film which has yet to be released, Hunter Killer, is about a US rescue mission to save the Russian president, co-starring Gary Oldman and Gerard Butler. Butler recently shared his heartfelt condolences via Instagram, reflecting on his time spent working with Nyqvist: “Of all the movies I’ve made he is right up there. One of my favourites, if not my favourite, in terms of somebody who had such an incredible talent, childlike qualities and, more than anything, such an incredible humility.” Fans can discover more about Nyqvist in his revealing memoir, Just After Dreaming, which was published in 2010, from charting his early childhood as an orphan to tracing his biological parents as an adult.
The actor’s death was announced by a representative of the Nyqvist family, as reported by the BBC: “Michael’s joy and passion were infectious to those who knew and loved him. His charm and charisma were undeniable”, and that “one of Sweden’s most respected and accomplished actors [had] passed away quietly surrounded by family”.