Per Oscarsson studied drama with Gösta Terserus and attended the Academy at Dramaten. His major breakthrough came in 1948 in Stig Dagerman’s play Skuggan av Mart (The Shadow of Mart). After a few years at Dramaten he was engaged at Göteborg City Theatre where his roles included a highly acclaimed interpretation of Hamlet. But at the height of his success with Hamlet, he left the theatre and went to Paris.
In the 1960s, Oscarsson was stricken by stage fright and wrote a book about the theatre, terror and fear. On Boxing Day 1966, he made headlines when he took off his clothes on the TV program Hylands hörna (Hyland’s Corner). Oscarsson’s stage fright caused him to stop working during the 1970s. He made a comeback on stage in 1989 in Death of a Salesman at Angereds Teater in Göteborg.
Oscarsson has remained active as a film actor both in Sweden and abroad. One of his earlier roles was in Svält (Hunger) in 1966 for which he won Best Actor at Cannes and he has also been seen in films including Ronja Rövardotter (Ronia: The Robber’s Daughter); Göta Kanal eller vem drog ur proppen? (Who Pulled the Plug?); 1939; Änglagård (Angel Farm) and Juloratoriet (Christmas Oratorio). He also wrote the screenplays and starred in both Ebon Lundin and Sverige åt svenskarna (Battle of Sweden).
One of Per Oscarsson’s most popular TV characters is police chief Gustav Jörgenson in the crime series Polisen i Strömstad (The Strömstad Police) which aired for five seasons on SVT in Sweden. He is also well known for the short film Kan du vissla, Johanna? (Can You Whistle, Johanna?), which has been broadcast on SVT on Christmas Eve for many years.