Liv Ullmann

Liv Johanne Ullmann (born 16 December 1938)[1] is a Norwegian actress and film director. She was one of the "muses" of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.[2][3]

Liv Ullmann
Liv Johanne Ullmann

(1938-12-16) 16 December 1938
Tokyo, Japan
ResidenceBoston, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationActress, director, screenwriter
Years active1957–present
Hans Jacob "Jappe" Stang
(m. 19601965)

Donald Leslie Saunders
(m. 1985)
Partner(s)Ingmar Bergman (1965–1970)
Dragan Babić
ChildrenLinn Ullmann

Ullmann won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama in 1972 for the film The Emigrants (1971), and has been nominated for another four. In 2000, she was nominated for the Palme d'Or for her second directorial feature film, Faithless. She has also received two BAFTA Award nominations for her performances in Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and Face to Face (1976), and two Academy Award nominations for The Emigrants and Face to Face.

Early life

Ullmann was born in Tokyo, Japan, the daughter of Erik Viggo Ullmann (1907–1945), a Norwegian aircraft engineer who was working in Tokyo at the time, and Janna Erbe (née Lund; 1910–1996), also Norwegian.[4] Her grandfather was sent to the Dachau concentration camp during the Second World War for helping Jews escape from the town where he lived in Norway; he died in the camp.[5] When she was two years old, the family moved to Toronto, Ontario, where her father worked at the Norwegian air force base on Toronto Island (in Lake Ontario) during the Second World War.[6] The family moved to New York, where four years later, her father died of a brain tumor, an event that affected her greatly.[6][7] Her mother worked as a bookseller, while raising two daughters.[8] They eventually returned to Norway, settling in Trondheim.[9]


Acting career

Ullmann began her acting career as a stage actress in Norway during the mid-1950s. She continued to act in theatre for most of her career, and became noted for her portrayal of Nora in Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, but became better known once she started to work with Swedish movie director Ingmar Bergman. She later acted, with acclaim, in 10 of his movies, including Persona (1966), The Passion of Anna (1969), Cries and Whispers (1972), and Autumn Sonata (1978), in the last of which her co-actress Ingrid Bergman resumed her own Swedish cinema career. She co-acted often with Swedish actor and fellow Bergman collaborator Erland Josephson, with whom she made the Swedish television drama Scenes from a Marriage (1973), which was also edited to feature-movie length and distributed theatrically. Ullmann acted with Laurence Olivier in A Bridge Too Far (1977), directed by Richard Attenborough.

Nominated more than 40 times for awards, including various lifetime achievement awards, she won the best actress prize three times from the National Society of Film Critics, three times from the National Board of Review, received three awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, and a Golden Globe. During 1971, Ullmann was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for the movie The Emigrants, and again during 1976 for the movie Face to Face.

Ullmann made her New York City stage debut in 1975 also in A Doll's House. Appearances in Anna Christie and Ghosts followed, as well as the less than successful musical version of I Remember Mama. This show, composed by Richard Rodgers, experienced numerous revisions during a long preview period, then closed after 108 performances. She also featured in the widely deprecated musical movie remake of Lost Horizon during 1973. In 1977, when she appeared on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre in Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, she "glowed with despair and hope, and was everything one could have wished her to have been" in a performance "not to be missed and never to be forgotten", with her "grace and authority" that was "perhaps more than Garbo...born for Anna Christie:--Or more properly, Anna Christie was born for her." (Clive Barnes (1977). "Theater: Liv Ullman's 'Anna Christie'." The New York Times, April 15, 1977)

In 1980, Brian De Palma, who directed Carrie, wanted Liv Ullmann to play the role of Kate Miller in the erotic crime thriller Dressed to Kill and offered it to her, but she declined because of the violence.[10] The role subsequently went to Angie Dickinson. In 1982 Ingmar Bergman wanted Ullmann to play Emelie Ekdahl in his last feature film, Fanny and Alexander, and wrote the role with this in mind.[11] She declined it, feeling the role was too sad. She later stated in interviews that turning it down was one of the few things she really regretted.[11]

During 1984, she was chairperson of the jury at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival,[12] and during 2002 chaired the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. She introduced her daughter, Linn Ullmann, to the audience with the words: "Here comes the woman whom Ingmar Bergman loves the most". Her daughter was there to receive the Prize of Honour on behalf of her father; she would return to serve the jury herself during 2011.

In 2003, Ullmann reprised her role for Scenes from a Marriage in Saraband (2003), Bergman's final telemovie. Her previous screen role had been in the Swedish movie Zorn (1994).

In 2004, Ullmann revealed that she had received an offer in November 2003 to play in three episodes of the popular American series, Sex and the City.[13] She was amused by the offer, and said that it was one of the few programs she regularly watched, but she turned it down.[14] Later that year, Steven Soderbergh wrote a role in the movie Ocean's 12 especially for her, but she also turned that down.[15]

Ullmann narrated the Canada–Norway co-produced animated short movie The Danish Poet (2006), which won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film at the 79th Academy Awards during 2007.

In 2008, she was the head of the jury at the 30th Moscow International Film Festival.[16]

She published two autobiographies, Changing (1977) and Choices (1984).

During 2012, she attended the International Indian Film Academy Awards in Singapore, where she was honored for her Outstanding Contributions to International Cinema and she also showed her movie on her relationship with Ingmar Bergman.[17]

Directing career

Ullmann's first film as a director was Sofie (1992); her friend and former co-actor, Erland Josephson, starred on it. She later directed the Bergman-composed movie Faithless (2000). Faithless garnered nominations for both the Palme d'Or and Best Actress category at the Cannes Film Festival.

During 2006, Ullmann announced that she had been forced to end her longtime wish of making a film based on A Doll's House. According to her statement, the Norwegian Film Fund was preventing her and writer Kjetil Bjørnstad from pursuing the project. Australian actress Cate Blanchett and British actress Kate Winslet had been cast intended in the main roles of the movie. She later directed Blanchett in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, at the Sydney Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia, which was performed September through October 2009, and then continued from 29 October to 21 November 2009 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where it won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Non-resident Production as well as actress and supporting performer for 2009. The play was also performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York.

In 2013, Ullmann directed a film adaptation of Miss Julie. The film, released in September 2014, stars Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, and Samantha Morton.[18] It was widely praised by the Norwegian press.

Personal life

In addition to Norwegian, Ullmann speaks Swedish, English, and other European languages.[19]

She had a romantic relationship with Ingmar Bergman (1965–1970). Writer Linn Ullmann (b. 1966) is their daughter.

Following an affair with the actor John Lithgow,[20] Ullman married Boston real estate developer Donald Saunders in 1985, and they remain married.

She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,[21] and has traveled widely for the organization. She is also co-founder and honorary chair of the International Rescue Committee's Women's Refugee Commission.
In 2005, King Harald V of Norway made Ullmann a Commander with Star of the Order of St. Olav.[22]

She received an honorary degree in 2006, Doctor of Philosophy, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.[23]



As actress

Year Title Role Notes
1957 Fjols til fjells
1959 Ung Flukt
1962 Tonny Kari Entered into the 12th Berlin International Film Festival
1962 Kort är sommaren
1963 Onkel Vanja (TV)
1965 De kalte ham Skarven
1965 Smeltedigelen Mary Warren (TV)
1966 En hyggelig fyr Mabel (TV)
1966 Persona Elisabet Vogler
1966 Måken Sonja (TV)
1967 Cocktailselskapet Celia (TV)
1968 Hour of the Wolf Alma Borg Guldbagge Award for Best Actress[24]
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Shame Eva Rosenberg National Board of Review Award for Best Actress (also for Shame)
1969 An-Magritt An-Magritt
1969 The Passion of Anna Anna Fromm
1970 Cold Sweat Fabienne Martin
1971 The Emigrants Kristina Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
1971 The Night Visitor Ester Jenks
1972 The New Land Kristina National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
1972 Cries and Whispers Maria (and her mother) New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
1972 Pope Joan Pope Joan
1973 Scenes from a Marriage Marianne David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1973 40 Carats Ann Stanley Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1973 Lost Horizon Katherine
1974 Zandy's Bride Hannah Lund
1974 The Abdication Queen Kristina
1975 Trollflöjten Woman in Audience (TV)
1975 Leonor Leonor
1976 Face to Face Dr. Jenny Isaksson Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1977 The Serpent's Egg Manuela Rosenberg
1977 A Bridge Too Far Kate ter Horst
1978 Autumn Sonata Eva David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress
1979 Players
1979 Fruen fra havet Ellida Wangel (TV)
1980 Richard's Things Kate Morris
1983 Jenny Jenny (TV)
1983 Jacobo Timerman: Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number Mrs. Jacobo Timerman (TV)
1984 Farlig trekk Marina Fromm
1984 The Wild Duck Gina
1984 The Bay Boy Mrs. Campbell
1984 Dangerous Moves (French: La Diagonale du fou) Marina Fromm
1986 Let's Hope It's a Girl Elena Nominated—David di Donatello Award for Best Actress
1987 Gaby: A True Story Sari
1987 Farewell Moscow Ida Nudel David di Donatello Award for Best Actress
1988 The Girlfriend (also known as La amiga) María San Sebastián International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
1988 Gli indifferenti Maria Grazia (TV)
1989 The Rose Garden Gabriele Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1991 Mindwalk Sonia Hoffman
1991 Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes Narrator (voice)
1992 The Long Shadow Katherine
1991 The Ox Mrs. Gustafsson
1994 Drømspel Ticket Seller
1994 Zorn Emma Zorn (TV)
2003 Saraband Marianne (TV)
2006 The Danish Poet Narrator
2008 I et speil, i en gåte Grandmother
2009 Sinna mann Mother (voice) (English Speaking Version)
2011 Lang dags ferd mot natt Mary Tyrone (TV)
2012 Zwei Leben (Two Lives) Åse
2012 Liv & Ingmar

As director

Year Film Notes
1992 Sofie Montreal World Film Festival Special Grand Prize of the Jury
Montreal World Film Festival Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
Montreal World Film Festival Most Popular Film
1995 Kristin Lavransdatter[26] (from the novel by Sigrid Undset)
1996 Private Confessions Nominated—Chicago International Film Festival Gold Hugo
Screened at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival[27]
2000 Faithless Amanda Ecumenical Film Award
Goya Award for Best European Film
Nominated—Palme d'Or, 2000 Cannes Film Festival[28]
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
2014 Miss Julie

See also


  1. Larsen, Svend Erik Løken (30 August 2017). "Liv Ullmann" via Store norske leksikon.
  2. Holden, Stephen (12 December 2013). "A Filmmaker's Hold on His Muse". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  3. Solway, Diane (October 2009). "Liv the Life". W Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 September 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  4. "Liv Ullmann Biography (1939— )". Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  5. Hattenstone, Simon (3 February 2001). "A Lifelong Liaison". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  6. Jones, Donald (10 May 1986). "Unravelling Little Norway's Big Secrets". Toronto Star. p. M03.
  7. Ouzounian, Richard (9 September 2014). "TIFF: Liv Ullmann spent 'worst and best times of my life' in Toronto". Toronto Star. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  8. "The Bergman connection". The Telegraph. 12 February 2000. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  9. Marcus, J.S. (17 September 2010). "Liv Ullmann's Return to the Stage". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  10. "Dressed to Kill (1980)".
  11. "NRK TV - Se Viggo på lørdag".
  12. "Berlinale: 1984 Juries". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  13. "Sex og singelliv for Liv Ullmann".
  14. "Sex og singel-Liv". 20 November 2003.
  15. "Eventyrlig Liv". 15 September 2012.
  16. "30th Moscow International Film Festival (2008)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  17. "Honoured to Share the Dais with Shabana Azmi, Liv Ullmann: Hassan". Mid Day. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  18. Boehm, Mike (1 February 2013). "Jessica Chastain to star in Liv Ullmann's film of 'Miss Julie'" via LA Times.
  19. Liv, Ullmann (2006). Liv Ullmann: interviews. Long, Robert Emmet (1st ed.). Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 157806824X. OCLC 61458361.
  20. The Record
  21. "Unicef People". UNICEF.
  22. "People: Liv Ullmann, Sharon Stone, Seal". International Herald Tribune. 13 May 2005.
  23. "Honorary Doctors". Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  24. "Skammen (1968)". Swedish Film Institute. 2 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 September 2015.
  26. "Viewed by as much as two-thirds of the population, one of Norway's most domestically successful films ever – an important cultural event". 22 September 2003. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  27. "Festival de Cannes: Private Confessions". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  28. "Festival de Cannes: Faithless". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 13 October 2009.

Further reading

  • Robert Emmet Long, ed. (2006). Liv Ullmann: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-823-1, 1-57806-824-X (paper). Collected interviews with Ullmann.
  • David Outerbridge (1979). Without Makeup, Liv Ullmann: A Photo-Biography. New York City: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-03441-1.
  • Liv Ullmann (1977). Changing. New York City: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-41148-X. Autobiography.
  • Liv Ullmann (1984). Choices. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-53986-9. ISBN 978-0-394-53986-7. Autobiography.
Preceded by
Arve Tellefsen
Recipient of the Arts Council Norway Honorary Award
Succeeded by
Sverre Fehn
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