Source: The Times (UK)
Date: July 21, 2017
Nyqvist harboured a ‘family secret’
With a secret family in Italy, including a grandfather
murdered by the mafia, the personal life of Michael
Nyqvist was every bit as intriguing as the dark Swedish
thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009),
the film that made him internationally famous.
His world was turned upside down when he was five or six
years old and his parents told him he was adopted, but
that it was a "family secret" and he must not tell
anyone. Suddenly he felt a deep sense of confusion and
loneliness. "Bearing that secret made me mentally
isolated. All the time I was afraid to say something
wrong," he said.
"It felt like I was walking around with a bomb belt that
could explode at any time. In addition I thought that
child welfare could come and pick me up if I did not
To make matters worse his adoptive parents split up soon
after. He was in his thirties before he decided to track
down his parents, an investigation that would take him
to the other end of Europe.
Nyqvist located his mother and they met in a Stockholm
café. It was to be their only meeting. She did not want
to begin a relationship with a son she did not know. "I
do not blame her," Nyqvist said. "I do not blame anyone
. . . She can always reach me, read my books, watch me
in the movies. Maybe that's why I have this profession."
Yet he struggled with rejection. He needed counseling,
he married a psychologist, Pinita Rodríguez, had a
daughter, got divorced and decided to resume the search
for his other parent. He knew his father's family came
from Sicily, where his grandfather had a vineyard. His
grandfather was murdered by the mafia after agreeing to
testify in a court case.
Nyqvist established that his father might be Marcello Lo
Cicero, a pharmacist in Florence. Nyqvist flew there,
but discovered he was on holiday in Ireland. A few weeks
later Nyqvist's phone rang and a voice said: "Ciao, č
tuo padre — Hi, it’s your father."
"My biological father and his family [including
Nyqvist’s two half-sisters] have received me and my
family with open arms," he said. "We hear from them
quite often and see them when we can." He said it meant
everything to him and he felt like a changed man. He
later wrote about the entire experience in an acclaimed
2010 book entitled När barnet lagt sig.
His film career was blossoming on the back of The
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its sequels and several
roles as villains in big Hollywood films, including
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), and he
embraced his Italian heritage, buying a vineyard and
olive grove in Tuscany.
He was born Rolf Ĺke Mikael Nyqvist in Stockholm in
1960, and was handed to an orphanage and adopted as an
infant by a lawyer and his wife. When he was 17 he spent
a year as an exchange student in Omaha, Nebraska, where
he took acting classes.
When he returned to Sweden he abandoned thoughts of
becoming a teacher or lawyer and enrolled in ballet
school — a choice largely determined by the fact that he
was in love with a girl who did ballet. He dropped out,
wound up at drama school and began acting.
He married for a second time, to Catharina Ehrnrooth, a
production designer, who survives him, with Ellen, his
daughter from his first marriage, who is a designer, and
Arthur, who has a YouTube remixes channel.
Nyqvist was in his forties when he made The Girl with
the Dragon Tattoo, an adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s
best-seller. He played the disgraced investigative
journalist and publisher Mikael Blomkvist, who links up
with computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) to
investigate the disappearance of a woman many years
earlier and uncovers some murky goings-on. They reprised
their roles in The Girl who Played with Fire
(2009) and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Now at peace with himself and relatively wealthy,
Nyqvist set up a company called Picky Drinks four years
ago and began marketing his wines on the Swedish market
as Collezione Lo Cicero, employing the original family
name. The labels showed him as Death, as portrayed in
the classic Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal,
and were designed by Ellen, a graduate of Central St
Martins art school in London. "I have accepted my
background," he said.
Michael Nyqvist, actor, was born on November 8, 1960. He
died of lung cancer on June 27, 2017, aged 56.