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Mai Zetterling

Swedish-born actress and director Mai Zetterling died in London Thursday from cancer, her theatrical agent said. She was 68.

The agent, Joyce Edwards, said Zetterling died in a London hospital. “She had cancer and died peacefully in her sleep. Her son was with her.”

Zetterling, whose career spanned acting, directing and writing, made her stage and screen debut at the age of 16 in Stockholm. After appearing in several Swedish films she was invited to Britain in 1946 to star in the film “Frieda.”

A beautiful blonde, she subsequently appeared in many other British films as well as several U.S. productions.

She co-starred with Anjelica Huston in Nicolas Roeg’s 1989 film “The Witches” and appeared in the 1990 film “Hidden Agenda,” directed by Ken Loach. Earlier notable roles were in “Knock on Wood” with Danny Kaye, “Desperate Moment” with Dirk Bogarde and “Only Two Can Play” with Peter Sellers.

In the early 1960s she made her directorial debut with a documentary, “The War Game,” which she co-wrote with her second husband, David Hughes.

Zetterling went on to direct several films in Sweden, with themes often dealing with the role of women in modern society, noted for their intense dramatic sense and explicit sexuality.

She also wrote several novels including “Night Games,” which provided the basis of her second feature film as director in 1966.

“I gave up acting because I was not a passive person,” she said in a 1973 interview with The Associated Press. “I had been infuriated about direction in films again and again. I wanted, for many reasons, to do my own ideas, positive ideas.”

Zetterling had written and was directing the film “The Woman Who Cleaned the World” when she died. Other books she wrote included “Rains Hat,” a children’s book published in 1979, and her 1985 autobiography, “All Those Tomorrows.”

Born in Vasteras, Sweden, on May 24, 1925, Zetterling was married and divorced twice. She is survived by a daughter as well as a son.

Zetterling had homes in London and Banne, in the Ardeche region of southern France. In the past several years, she divided her time between the two.

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