One of Norway’s most legendary actors, Toralv Maurstad, will be getting the equivalent of a final standing ovation, after the government honoured him by offering to pick up the bill for his funeral. Maurstad died on Friday at the age of 95, no less than 88 years after his first appearance on stage at the National Theater in Oslo when he was seven.
Maurstad was the son of two other prominent Norwegian actors, Alfred and Tordis Maurstad, so he grew up with theater and film. He went on to become director of the National Theater in 1978, but not before he’d become famous at home and acclaimed on the London stage as well, not least for his roles as Peer in Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.
He studied as a young man at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, where he gained a life-long passion for Shakespeare. He played the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream over a span of 50 years.
In addition to classic roles on stage he also diversified over the years, both into film and TV. He became known to American audiences in the musical Song of Norway, playing the role of composer Edvard Grieg, and later had a long run in TV2‘s popular series Hotel Cæsar.
Maurstad also spent many years in theater mangement, reviving if somewhat controversially the financially strapped Oslo Nye Teater, where he became director in 1967 and then the National Theater until 1986. He also directed several plays, continued to perform himself, often opposite the late Norwegian actress Wenche Foss, and worked as a freelancer while also devoting plenty of time to golf. He told newspaper VG in 1988 that golf had become his new passion, and he was often on golf holidays in the Canary Islands.
He was married three times, to the Swedish actress Eva Henning in 1954, then to Anne-Ma Brurum and, in 1999, to Norwegian actress Beate Marie Eriksen. He was also the half-brother of actress Mari Maurstad and he spent lots of time at the family farm in Nordfjord.
Maurstad was honoured with many acting and cultural prizes throughout his life and was knighted by King Harald in 2007 as Commander of St Olavs Order. Theater critic Mona Levin wrote in newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend that “some people are viewed as immortal, and Toralv Maurstad was one of them. We almost can’t believe he’s died, when he was always so alive.”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre claimed that Maurstad “wrote himself into history as a legend in Norwegian theater and cultural life. He enriched Norwegian culture over many decades with his creative power and unique radiance on the stage and before the camera. It’s with gratitude that we will remember him and all the great moments he gave us.” His family has accepted the offer of a state funeral, made to only around 100 Norwegians since the honour was launched in 1881.