Lena Nyman was one of Sweden’s most talked about actors. She worked within several genres: she acted in classic productions at Dramaten (the royal dramatic theatre), performed in floor shows at Berns, and also appeared in films which were shown across the Western world.
Lena Nyman was born in Stockholm in 1944. She grew up in a small apartment at Lidnersplan on Kungsholmen. Her childhood home comprised her mother, Margit Svensson, a fur seamstress, her brother Bo Nyman and, initially, her father, the artist Lennart Nyman. Following her parents’ separation in the early 1950s her father moved to a studio in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Lena Nyman was a child star and made her first silver-screen appearance as an eleven-year old, playing the lead role in the 1955 film Farligt löfte. Prior to that she had also acted in smaller roles at various Stockholm theatres, including Operan. In 1964 Lena Nyman was accepted into the Statens skola för scenisk utbildning (national school for the performing arts) – which later became known as Teaterhögskolan (college of the performing arts) at Dramaten in Stockholm. Her classmates included Marie Göranzon, Iréne Lindh, and Rolf Skoglund. During her time at Dramaten arts reviewers declared that she was a genius following her performances in 1969 as Polly in Alf Sjöberg’s Tolvskillingsoperan, as Barbro in Barbro Larsson’s Om sju flickor in 1971, and in 1972 as Hedvig in Ingmar Bergman’s Vildanden.
Lena Nyman also recorded several films directed by Vilgot Sjöman during her time at Dramaten. The best-known of these is Jag är nyfiken. En film i gult, released in 1967, in which Lena Nyman was given a lot of freedom in developing her role and improvising the scenes. The film became an international success although its many scenes of nudity caused a scandal.
Lena Nyman left Dramaten in 1973 in order to begin working with Hasse Alfredson and Tage Danielsson, initially in Glaset i örat at Berns in Stockholm that same year. She also acted in several of Hasse and Tage’s films. During the same period she also returned to Dramaten where she performed several acclaimed roles. One of these was Marie David in Tribadernas natt.
Lena Nyman mostly performed at private theatres such as the Maxim in Stockholm during the second half of the 1980s and during the 1990s. She also acted in commercial films. Her artistic achievements declined in frequency. Her roles included that of Lovis in the film adaptation of Astrid Lindgren’s Ronja Rövardotter in 1984, and as Boel in Morrhår och ärtor in 1986.
Despite suffering from several illnesses shortly after the turn of the millennium (2000) Lena Nyman still generated a lot of attention for her acting in the early 2000s, particularly her performances with Kristina Lugn, a poet and member of the Swedish academy, at her small Teater Brunnsgatan Fyra in Stockholm. In 2004 Lena Nyman appeared in Två solstrålar på nya äventyr and in 2005 she played the part of Julia in Nära Romeo och Julia, opposite Erland Josephson. Her last performance was in Katarina den stora in 2006.
Lena Nyman had several private relationships. She lived with Mats Thulin, a bank director, during the 1970s. She was married to Rune Andersson, a troubadour, for just under a year and a half from 1977-1979. She lived with fellow actor Tomas Pontén during the 1980s. From the 1990s onwards her life companion was a miniature Schnauzer called Kaxe; she had received the dog as a gift from her acting students Ulrika Malmgren and Katta Pålsson.
During the 1990s Lena Nyman was a well-loved instructor at the Stockholm and Malmö performing arts schools. Several of her students, including Pia Johansson and Richard Wolff, became her close friends. Her social circle also included former classmate and actor Marie Göranzon, her childhood friend Viveka Seldahl, and the actor Claire Wikholm.
Lena Nyman died in Stockholm in 2011. She is buried at the Norra cemetery in Solna.