Mauritz Stiller was a Finnish actor, screenwriter and silent film director, who was mostly active in Sweden.
Born Moshe Stiller in Helsinki, his family was of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, having lived in Russia and Poland before settling in Finland. At age four, Stiller's mother committed suicide, after which he was raised by family friends. From early on, Stiller was interested in acting. His talents did not go unnoticed, and soon Stiller was offered the opportunity to practice and display his acting skills in the theaters of Helsinki and Turku in Finland.
Drafted into the army of Czar Nicholas II — Finland was at the time an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia?rather than report for duty he fled the country for exile, and settled in Sweden.
By 1912 Stiller had become involved with Sweden's rapidly developing silent film industry. He began by writing scripts, in addition to acting and directing in short films but within a few years gave up on acting to devote his time to writing and directing. He was soon directing feature-length productions and his 1918 effort Thomas Graals bästa barn with Victor Sjöström in the leading role, received much acclaim.