One of ClassicMovieChat’s devoted followers, known to us simply as Velvet, has made several requests for photos of her favorite star, Franco Nero. So here are a few. Handsome, ain’t he?
Hi everybody, your classic movie guys Mr. Joe Morella and Mr. Frank Segers back again. While Mrs. Norman Maine is busy in the kitchen cooking up a pot of pasta we thought we’d give some thought today to the career of this veteran Italian actor.
We should immediately advise Velvet that the above shots are of a much younger Nero, and really don’t comprise the “pictorial history” requested.
After all, he was born decades ago (Franco turns 70 on Nov. 23) in a small village in Italy’s Emilia Romagna district anchored by the northern city of Bologna. While Nero has aged very well, he doesn’t today quite look like he does in the shots above.
But there’s no doubt that Velvet is on to something. It was director John Huston who launched Nero’s career 45 years ago when, upon spotting a photo of him, exclaimed: “That’s the face I want.”
Franco was working at the time as a set photographer. He was soon an actor with a role in Huston’s epic bomb, “The Bible,” shot largely in Italy in the mid Sixties. (Also in the cast were Ava Gardner and her violently jealous lover, George C. Scott.)
Thus an extraordinarily long career ensued, and continues to this day.
Nero is, for example, the voice of Uncle Topolino in the Pixar-Disney animation feature, “Cars 2.” In 2010, he appeared in the romantic drama “Letters To Juliet,” an art-resembles-life movie that includes in its cast the actor’s longtime paramour, Vanessa Redgrave.
In all, Nero has to date about 175 film and tv credits to his name. He has always prided himself not as a “star” but rather a versatile actor tackling a host of different roles. He has over the years worked with such highly regarded European directors as Luis Bunuel, Damiano Damiani, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Claude Chabrol and Marco Bellocchio.
He is probably best remembered among movie fans of a certain age for his role in director Joshua Logan’s 1967 movie version of the Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe Broadway musical, “Camelot.” Nero played Lancelot to Redgrave’s Guenevere. The couple fell in love offscreen, a union that produced a child (Carlo Gabriel Nero) but not a marriage.
It wasn’t until 40 years later that Nero and Redgrave formally tied the knot — she was 69, he was 65. They are still married. Redgrave regards their marriage ceremony not as a legal or financial arrangement but as a culmination of a lengthy off-again, on-again relationship.
Whatever, Nero has aged well and with great style. Without question he is best remembered by fans (such as Frank) of spaghetti westerns — those oaters filmed in Rome and in Spain in Sixties and the early 1970’s — for playing the title role in director Sergio Corbucci’s “Django.” Nero is terrific as a coffin-dragging gunslinger violently mediating a nasty dispute between KKK members and Mexican bandits.
We urge you to check “Django” out. The movie plays exceptionally well 45 years after it was made. It is not just a classic western but a classic movie, period. That’s due in large part by Nero’s strong performance. (Nero repeated his role 21 years later in a forgettable sequel, “Dango 2: Il Grande Ritorno.” Skip it!)
Note to Velvet: In the original “Django” Franco Nero looks like he does in the pictures published today. Handsome, ain’t he?