Max von Sydow as Andrée, Sverre Anker Ousdal (obscured) as Frænkel, and Göran Stangertz as Strindberg begin their ill-fated ascent.
"We [von Sydow and Cowie] really only became friends in the early 1980s, when Max played the Emperor Ming in Mike Hodges’s version of Flash Gordon and was stationed at Shepperton Studios for a stint. I went down to interview him for my book on Bergman, and then one year later, I was invited to visit the shoot of Jan Troell’s The Flight of the Eagle, in which Max played the intrepid, obsessive explorer S. A. Andrée.
"To reach the 'location' on The Flight of the Eagle, you endured a fifty-minute ride across rough ice on a snowmobile just south of the Arctic Circle, in the Gulf of Bothnia. Andrée and his two companions tried to reach the North Pole in a balloon in 1897, and it seemed Jan Troell was having as much difficulty launching the balloon that day as the explorers must have experienced more than eighty years earlier. It lurched upward, then lost height, and suddenly Max was trapped between the ice floe and the gondola basket. The crew managed to free him, but almost immediately the ice started breaking up. A helicopter was summoned, and I was flown back to shore with Max and two of the actors. While awaiting the return of Troell and his crew, Max led the way to a nearby farm. As darkness fell, the farmer’s wife served coffee and smorgasbord to us all, not recognizing Max. Then the others arrived, and we all drove back to the small town of Kalix in a Volkswagen minibus laid on by the production company. Max nodded off in the front seat. Once at the hotel, makeup had to be removed, and a late supper devoured. Long after midnight, the producer moved among the tables, circulating the next day’s call sheet. '9:00 a.m.,' said Max gravely, and with his consummate professionalism, 'Yes, that sounds acceptable.'"
Read the rest of the tribute to von Sydow at criterion.com.