Liv Ullmann receives honorary Oscar

“Actually very surprising,” says veteran actor


Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB
Norway’s Liv Ullmann, one of the world’s most beloved actors, has received an honorary Oscar.

Hollywood honored Liv Ullmann last week with an honorary Oscar for lifelong service in the film industry. She herself was surprised but radiant when she received the message.

“I was feeling a bit down one day, when the phone rang. It was David Rubin, president of the [Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]. He spoke so beautifully and so humanly about why I should receive this honorary Oscar. I’ve forgotten his words, but it was amazing. So, I went from feeling very down that day, to feeling very happy,” Ullmann said to NTB.

Ullmann was celebrated by Hollywood on March 25, when she was awarded the prestigious honorary Oscar or Governors Award. The award was presented in a separate ceremony, two days before this year’s Oscars.

“I know that I will get it, so I will not be a bundle of nerves,” Ullmann said before the ceremony.

In the past, she has had a fair share of Oscar excitement, having been nominated twice without winning: first for Best Actress in Jan Troell’s epic film  The Emigrants (1971) and then for her role in Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face (1976).

“For once, I will sit in the hall and not be nervous, without a pounding heart, wondering ‘did I win or did I not win.’ I’m really looking forward to it,” said Ullmann.

Refugee involvement

Ullmann has a long career behind her, as an actor, screenwriter, and director. She has had several roles in the theater, but she received the honorary Oscar for her work in film.

She did not want to single out one film that she is most proud of but said that The Emigrants has meant a lot to her. The film is being released in a new version, directed by Erik Poppe, of whom Ullmann speaks very highly.

“It deals with something that is just as modern and important today as before—and perhaps even more important. When we wake   up in the morning, we see that a new country is being invaded, a new country is confronted with the fact that they may become refugees, that they may be killed. That they can no longer live in their own homes. That they have to leave for somewhere else. It happens today, too,” said Ullmann, who has for years advocated for refugees.

“Not everything in life”

In addition to Ullman, film legends Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, and Elaine May were also honored with the honorary Oscar during the ceremony. For Ullmann, it was an honor to be included among them.

Norway’s contender for Best Foreign Film, The Worst Person in the World, was slated as strong contender for running off with one or two more Oscars, adding to Ullmann’s excitement.

Ullmann, who has won countless awards, had some tips on how the team behind the film might handle their nervous anticipation.

“It’s just knowing that this is not all in life and the honor is really to be nominated. If your heart beats very fast, and then suddenly you do not hear your name called out as the winner, then your life will definitely go on,” she said.

Sewing club

Ullmann remembers well the disappointment when she didn’t win after her first nomination. But there was something that meant more.

“I came back to the hotel room, where I was met by my whole sewing club. And on my pillow was a note: ‘We think you were the best.’ And suddenly I felt, ‘Oh, how lucky I am.’ Because I was sure that the person who won had no sewing club to go home to.

“I hope they travel with someone who is  and know that it is not always best to win. That they have a sewing club with them.”


This article originally appeared in the April 1, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway