Biography of Liv Ullmann Norwegian actress, writer and filmmaker. She is one of the best European dramatic actresses of the 1960s and 1970s.
She starred in nine of Ingmar Bergman’s feature films.
Liv Ullmann’s childhood and family life
Liv Ullmann was born in Tokyo on December 16, 1938.
She was the second of two sisters.
Her birth in Japan was due to the fact that her father’s engineering profession, Viggo Ullmann, forced him to move frequently.
Her mother’s name was Janna Erbe Lund.
Shortly after Liv’s birth, World War II began and the German army invaded Norway.
For this reason, the family considered it prudent to move away from Europe. They chose to go to Canada.
In 1945, her father passed away as a result of a brain tumor.
Liv Ullmann was almost seven years old and returned with her mother to Norway, to the town of Trondheim.
As a child, Liv was not a good student, and sometimes she pretended to be sick to miss class. But her imagination, the taste for movies and the desire to read stood out.
Liv Ullmann’s Acting Vocation
When she expressed her desire to be an actress, the family did not welcome this determination.
There was a certain aristocratic air among the relatives, even with a relative who had been a member of parliament.
They did not consider it appropriate for someone in the family to dedicate themselves to living in the theater environment.
Young Liv Ullmann wanted with all her might to study dramatic art in London.
She wanted to do it at the Weber-Douglas School, one of the leading drama schools in the UK.
However, that could not be, since she was suspended in the theatrical examination for considering that she “lacked talent“.
Far from being discouraged, she enrolled at the Conservatory of Dramatic Art in Oslo, where she soon stood out among her peers as a magnificent actress.
The beginnings of her artist career
However, in the 1950s, her first stage performances were painful for her.
She experienced loneliness and failure in her efforts to land roles in some performance.
At last came the joy of a contract that took her to the city of Stavenger, with the possibility of performing on the stages of the Rogaland Theater.
In it, Liv Ullmann had her great success playing the role of “Anne” in the play “The Diary of Anne Frank“.
Her spectacular performance was widely applauded by critics, who stated that “she was Anne Frank“.
After this triumph, the Oslo National Theater offered her a contract.
Liv Ullmann as film actress
In 1959, when she was just 21 years old, she was able to play her first role of a certain entity, in the movie “Young Getaway” (Ung Flukt), a romantic drama by Edith Carlmar.
The film was not well seen by much of Liv Ullmann’s relatives; among other things because she appeared naked in some scenes.
A great uncle of her, he even asked the director of the cinema that was screening the film, to suspend the screening in his cinema.
Liv Ullmann’s life in the 1960s
In 1960 Liv Ullmann married Norwegian psychiatrist Hans Jacob Stang.
The immaturity of both was unspeakable and they were more “friends“.
The reciprocal feelings were like those of brother and sister. It was a marriage that only lasted five years.
The 1960s were crucial in Liv Ullmann’s life.
She met the one who would be the love of her life, Ingmar Bergmann. She shot to stardom with the movie “Persona” (1966). She had her daughter Linn Ullmann (9 agosto 1966).
Liv Ullmann’s sentimental life
Liv Ullmann was a romantic partner of the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman from 1965 to 1978.
The working relationship lasted 45 years since the romance ignited that summer.
After breaking up with Bergman and separating from Hans Jacob, she married real estate agent and hotel entrepreneur Donald Saunders in 1980.
This last marriage was broken in 1995.
Ullmann had already started a successful career as a stage and film actress.
In 1962 she worked with who would be her friend, Bibi Andersson, in the movie “A Short Summer” (Kort är sommaren).
Between these two actresses an intense professional and emotional relationship emerged.
In their years of living with Bergmann on the island of Fårö, in 1968 they filmed the film “Shame”; a war drama starring Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow.
And in 1969, the movie “Passion“; a romantic drama, in which Liv Ullmann, Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson worked.
These two films were also shot on the island of Farö.
In 1966 Liv Ullmann was known in Norway as a stage actress. Ingmar Bergman offered to co-star in the movie “Persona“, which was filmed in Farö, the famous director’s home island.
“Persona” is a film written, directed and produced by Ingmar Bergman in 1966. It is considered one of the best films in the history of cinema. It is interpreted by Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman.
Liv Ullmann plays a theatrical actress who, during a performance of “Electra,” is speechless.
She is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she is entrusted to a nurse, the great actress Bibi Andersson. A close friendship is generated between both women.
For years Bergmann and Ullmann were a couple, loving and artistic.
Actress Liv Ullmann’s successful career
Liv Ullmann starred in nine of Ingmar Bergman’s feature films, with whom she had her daughter on August 9, 1966, the writer Linn Ullmann.
The career of these two great cinema stars was forever linked.
In those years, not only her beauty was demonstrated, but also her ability to penetrate other people’s skin.
She was always linked to cinema and theater, with works that made her dramatic talent shine.
Her work with Ingmar Bergman, especially in “Scenes from a Marriage“, led her to be considered a feminist and cultural icon in the 70s; Furthermore, she was one of the most respected actresses of her time.
She was twice nominated for the Oscar Awards.
Liv Ullman was a contemporary of two other great actresses: the Spanish Carmen Sevilla and the Italian Sofía Loren.
Her performances as a theater actress add up to at least 26 plays; As a film actress, she starred in 27 highly successful films. In recent years she has been the director of 5 films.
From this decade as a famous actress, she highlights her leading role in seven films shot in Sweden, five of them under the direction of Ingmar Bergman.
In addition to one in France, one in the United Kingdom, three in the USA.
In one way or another, she worked in the company of the most outstanding actors in those years, such as: Max von Sydow, Charles Bronson, James Mason, Olivia de Havilland, Michael Caine, Gene Kelly, Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery.
In 1976, motivated by repeated questions from journalists about her artistic, personal and sentimental life, she decided to publish a book with her memoirs.
The book is titled “Changing“. It was an arduous and difficult task, since they were years of a lot of work in the filming of movies and continuous trips between Norway and the United States.
Liv Ullmann in the 1980s
In the 1980s, Liv Ullmann continued to work actively, although her production as an actress gradually decreased and with lesser results. Her performances decreased in interest and intensity.
However, the beautiful and sensual Norwegian actress had the opportunity to work again in Hollywood, and was requested by the Spanish Luis Buñuel and by other prestigious directors.
From this period, “The boy from the bay” (1984) and “Gaby, a true story” (1987) stand out.
In addition, in these years she married the businessman Donald Richard Saunders.
Although they divorced in 1995, they continued to live together until 2001.
Liv Ullmann’s stage as film director
Many years of experience in front of the cameras and working with extraordinary film directors encouraged her to develop a new activity, this time behind the cameras.
In 1982, she did her first job as a screenwriter and director; It was in the episode of the movie “Love“.
It took her ten years to fully decide to work as a film director. Her real debut was in 1992, with the movie “Sofie“, an adaptation of Henri Nathansen’s novel.
Co-production from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The script is by Liv Ullmann and Peter Poulsen. It tells the story of a devoted Jewish family from Copenhagen between 1886 and 1907; It is centered on Sofie, the only daughter, intelligent and dreamy.
At the 1992 Montreal Festival, she won a Special Grand Jury Prize.
Three years later, in 1995, she directed “Cristina, daughter of Lavrans“, an adaptation of the trilogy of the Norwegian writer awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, Sigrid Undset.
The film covers approximately two volumes of the trilogy. Liv Ullmann was pleased to see that it was the highest-grossing production in Norwegian history.
In 2000, she was the director of the movie “Unfaithful.” Scripted by Ingmar Bergman and co-produced by Sweden, Norway and Germany.
It tells the story of three adult people who are caught in a love triangle of devastating consequences. No one is innocent, everyone manipulates each other, secrets come to light and the result is that everyone is unfaithful.
It was nominated for the Palme d’Or for best film at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.
Her last film as a director was “Miss Julia” (2014). Adaptation of August Strindberg’s work.
After this movie, she stated that she would probably never direct again.
She loved working with the actors, but not so much with the technicians. She said that being a woman, and even more so an older woman, made relations with staff too difficult.
In 2005, she presented the publication of her biography in Oslo, with the title of “Liv Ulmann. Traces of life”.
The Norwegian actress and film director narrates, among other things, her problems with alcohol, her heart and her relationship with the “superstitious” Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.