Franco Nero

Francesco Clemente Giuseppe Sparanero (born 23 November 1941), better known by his stage name Franco Nero, is an Italian actor. He is best known for his breakthrough role as the title character in Sergio Corbucci's Spaghetti Western film Django (1966), a role that he reprised in Nello Rossati's Django Strikes Again (1987).

Franco Nero
Nero in April 2018
Francesco Clemente Giuseppe Sparanero

(1941-11-23) 23 November 1941
Years active1962–present
Vanessa Redgrave (m. 2006)
Children2; including Carlo Gabriel Nero

Since then, he has performed over 200 leading and supporting roles in a wide variety of films and television programmes in both Italy and abroad, in genres ranging from poliziotteschi, to action, to drama, to war, and musicals. These include The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966), Camelot (1967), The Day of the Owl (1968), The Mercenary (1968), Battle of Neretva (1969), Tristana (1970), Compañeros (1970), Confessions of a Police Captain (1971), Keoma (1976), Hitch-Hike (1977), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), Enter the Ninja (1981), Die Hard 2 (1990), Letters to Juliet (2010) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017). He also played the narrator in the film Rasputin (2010), directed by Louis Nero, and voiced the character of Uncle Topolino in the animated film Cars 2 (2011) directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by Brad Lewis. In 2012, Nero made a cameo appearance in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Nero is known for his ties to the Redgrave family, and has had a long-standing relationship with Vanessa, which began during the filming of Camelot. They were married in 2006.

Early life

Francesco Clemente Giuseppe Sparanero[1][2][3][4][5] was born in San Prospero Parmense (province of Parma, Emilia-Romagna), the son of a commissioned officer in the Carabinieri,[6] originally from San Severo.[7] He grew up in Bedonia and in Milan. He studied briefly at the Economy and Trade faculty of the local university, before leaving to study at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano.

Acting career

Nero's first film role was a small part in Pelle viva (1962),[8] and he had his first lead role in Sergio Corbucci's Django (1966) a spaghetti western and one of his best-known films. In 1966 from Django he went on to appear in eight more films released that year including Texas, Adios (1966) and Massacre Time.

In 1967, he appeared in Camelot as Lancelot, where he met his longtime romantic partner, and later on in life his wife, Vanessa Redgrave. Following this he appeared in the mafia film Il giorno della civetta opposite Claudia Cardinale released in 1968.

A lack of proficiency in English tended to limit these roles, although he also appeared in other English-language films including The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), Enter the Ninja (1981) and Die Hard 2 (1990).

Although often typecast in films like Los amigos (1973) or Keoma (1976) he has attempted an impressive range of characters, such as Abel in John Huston's epic The Bible: In The Beginning (1966), the humiliated engineer out for revenge in Street Law, the gay lieutenant in Querelle (1982) and Serbian mediaeval hero in The Falcon (1983). He has appeared in over 150 films, and has written, produced and starred in one: Jonathan degli orsi (1993).[9]

More recently, he starred in Hungarian director Koltay Gábor's Honfoglalás (Conquest) in 1996, in Li chiamarono... briganti! (1999) by Pasquale Squitieri and subsequently in Koltay's Sacra Corona (Holy Crown) in 2001.

In 2009 he played an eccentric author called "Mario Puzzo" in Mord ist mein Geschäft, Liebling ("Murder is my trade, darling", Italian title "Tesoro, sono un killer"). German critics found his performance was the best part of the film: "Having Franco Nero playing in this film is really a great joy - it is only regrettable that after his appearances there is still so much film left."[10]

In 2010, Nero appeared in the film Letters to Juliet with Redgrave. In 2011 he appeared as a guest star on the season 13 premiere episode of Law and Order SVU. His character, although Italian, was based on Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In the same year, he received a star on the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[11]

In 2012, Nero made a cameo appearance in the film Django Unchained in one scene alongside Jamie Foxx, who stars as Django Freeman in the film. In the scene Nero plays the original Django, an Italian Mandingo Fighter manager. Nero's Django then questions Foxx's Django about how his name is spelled, and asks him to spell it, referencing a scene from Nero's role as Django in the original Django film. Upon learning that their names are spelled the same way, Nero's Django says "I know" to Foxx's Django.

In 2016 and 2017 he has interpreted Gabriele Tinti's poetry giving voice to the masterpieces in the National Roman Museum.[12][13]

Personal life

His romantic involvement with British actress Vanessa Redgrave began in 1966 when they met on the set of Camelot. In 1969, they had a son, Carlo Gabriel Redgrave Sparanero (known professionally as Carlo Gabriel Nero), a screenwriter and director. After separating for many years, during which they both had relationships with other people, they reunited and married on 31 December 2006.[14] Carlo Nero directed Redgrave in the cinematic adaptation of Wallace Shawn's play The Fever.

Nero dated actresses Catherine Deneuve, Goldie Hawn and Ursula Andress in the 1970s.[15][16][17] In December 1987, a 26-year-old Colombian woman named Mauricia Mena filed a paternity suit against Nero claiming the actor was the father of her three-week old son. Nero admitted being friends with Mena, a cook with the family where he was staying in Cartagena while filming Django Strikes Again, but denied they had a sexual relationship.[18]

In 1994, Nero walked his future stepdaughter Natasha Richardson (1963–2009) down the aisle when she married actor Liam Neeson. Her father, Tony Richardson, had died in 1991.


Year Title Role Notes
1965 I Knew Her Well Italo
The Tramplers Charley Garvey
Wild, Wild Planet Lt. Jake Jacowitz
1966 War of the Planets
Hired Killer Tony Lo Bello
Django Django
Massacre Time Tom Corbett
The Third Eye Mino Alberti
Texas, Adios Sheriff Burt Sullivan
The Bible: In the Beginning... Abel First American film
1967 Man, Pride and Vengeance Don José
Camelot Lancelot du Lac Singing voice by Gene Merlino

Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Male

1968 The Day of the Owl Capt. Claudio Bellodi Won - David di Donatello Award for Best Actor
Sardinia Kidnapped Gavino
The Mercenary Sergei "Polack" Kowalski
A Quiet Place in the Country Leonardo Ferri
1969 The Fifth Day of Peace Ensign Bruno Grauber
Detective Belli Detective Stefano Belli
Battle of Neretva Capt. Michele Riva
1970 Tristana Horacio
The Virgin and the Gypsy The Gypsy Nominated - Golden Laurel Award for Star of Tomorrow, Male
Dropout Bruno Grazza
Compañeros Yodlaf Peterson
1971 The Case Is Closed, Forget It Vanzi
Confessions of a Police Captain Deputy D.A. Traini Won - Italian Golden Globe Award for Best Actor
The Fifth Cord Andrea Bild
La vacanza Osiride
Long Live Your Death Dmitri Vassilovich Orlowsky
1972 Pope Joan Louis II of Italy
The Monk Ambrosio
1973 Redneck Mosquito
Deaf Smith & Johnny Ears Johnny Ears
The Assassination of Matteotti Giacomo Matteotti
High Crime Vice Commissioner Alessandro Nelli
White Fang Jason Scott
I guappi Nicola Bellizzi
1974 Last Days of Mussolini Walter "Valerio" Audisio
Street Law Carlo Antonelli
Challenge to White Fang Jason Scott
1975 Smiling Maniacs Judge Roberto Dani
How to Kill a Judge Giacomo Solaris
Cry, Onion! Onion Stark
The Legend of Valentino Rudolph Valentino Television film
The Flower in His Mouth Professor Michele Belcore
1976 Victory March Capt. Asciutto
Death Rite Sadry
Submission Armand
21 Hours at Munich Luttif Afif Television film
Keoma Keoma Shannon
1977 Sahara Cross Jean Bellard
Hitch-Hike Walter Mancini
1978 Force 10 from Navarone Captain Nicolai Lescovar \ Colonel von Ingorslebon
The Pirate "sheikh Baydr Al-Fay the Pirate" Television miniseries
1979 The Visitor Jesus Christ Uncredited
Mimi Guido
Le rose di Danzica General Konrad van Der Berg
The Shark Hunter Mike DiDonato
1980 The Man with Bogart's Face Hakim
The Blue-Eyed Bandit Renzo Dominici
Day of the Cobra Larry Stanzani
1981 The Salamander Carabinieri Colonel Dante Matucci
The Falcon Strahinja Banović
Enter the Ninja Cole
1982 Red Bells John Reed
Kamikaze 1989 Weiss
Querelle Lieutenant Seblon
Grog Nicola Fanelli
1983 Red Bells II John Reed
Wagner Crespi Television miniseries
1984 The Last Days of Pompeii Arbaces
Die Försterbuben Andreas Boehme Television film
1985 André schafft sie alle André
Un marinaio e mezzo Nick
The Hitchhiker Dr. Peter Milne Television series;

1 episode

The Repenter Judge Falco
1987 Sweet Country Paul
Il generale Giuseppe Garibaldi Television miniseries
The Girl Johan Berg
Django Strikes Again Django
Grosso guaio a Cartagena Francis
1988 Windmills of the Gods "dictator of Romania Alexandru Ionescu" Television miniseries
Top Line Ted Angelo
Pigmalione 88 Lorenzo
Young Toscanini Claudio Toscanini
Magdalene Janza
Run for Your Life Comissare
1989 The Magistrate Paolo Pizzi Television miniseries
1990 The Betrothed Friar Cristoforo
Die Hard 2 General Ramon Esperanza
Breath of Life Gesulado
1991 Young Catherine Count Mikhail Vorontsov Television miniseries
Julianus barát Domenico
Amelia Lópes O'Neill Fernando
1992 Brothers and Sisters Franco
Crimson Dawn Paul Herzog Television film
Zoloto Gabriele da Poppi
1993 Azzurro profondo Luca Morinari
Der Fall Lucona Enzo Lombardo
Jonathan of the Bears Jonathan Kowalski
Das Babylon Komplott Chris Lang Television film
1994 The Dragon Ring The Dragon King Television miniseries
1995 Io e il re Major Ferri
1996 The Innocent Sleep Adolfo Cavani
The Return of Sandokan Yogi Azim Television miniseries
The Conquest Árpád
1997 Il tocco - La sfida Jesus Barro
David Nathan Television film
La medaglia Ferrero
Desert of Fire Marcel Duvivier Television miniseries
Painted Lady Robert Tassi
Bella Mafia Mario Domino Television film
1998 Il tesoro di Damasco Andrea
The Versace Murder Gianni Versace
Talk of Angels Dr. Vicente Areavaga
1999 Brigands Nerza
Uninvited Ralph Barolo
2000 Mirka Giancarlo
Winds of Passion Michele Giangrande
St. Paul Gamaliel Television miniseries
2001 Chimera The Businessman
Sacra Corona Bishop Gellért
The Sleeping Wife Marco
Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 General Michelangelo Francini
The Crusaders Ibn-Azul Television miniseries
2002 Fumata blanca Cardinal Tura
Ultimo stadio Antonio
Die achte Todsünde: Toskana-Karussell Giuseppe Mantaldo Television film
2003 Liebe, Lügen, Leidenschaften Pietro Bellini Television miniseries
2004 Post cotium Bakchus
Guardians of the Clouds Il Padre
2005 Forever Blues Luca Also directorial debut
Summer Solstice Lorenzo Television miniseries
2006 Hans The Magistrate
Amore e libertà - Masaniello Vicerè D'Arcos
The Holy Family Zechariah Television film
2007 Mineurs Michele Acucella
Der Fürst und das Mädchen Count Massimo di Romano Television series;

8 episodes

2008 Márió, a varázsló Mario
Bastardi Rene Iuvara
La rabbia Mentore
Bathory: Countess of Blood King Mathias II of Hungary
Il sangue e la rosa Umberto Mancini Television series;

1 episode

Mein Herz in Chile Carlos Sanchez Television film
A Night at the Grand Hotel Ferran Moreno
Rosamunde Pilcher's Four Seasons Max Freeman Television miniseries
2009 Mord ist mein Geschäft, Liebling Enrico Puzzo
Palestrina - Prince of Music Domenico Ferrabosco
2010 Augustine: The Decline of the Roman Empire Augustine of Hippo Television miniseries
Angelus Hiroshimae The Hunter
Letters to Juliet Lorenzo Bartolini
2011 Rasputin Narrator
New Order Dr. Cornelius Van Morgen
Father Enrico
Cars 2 Uncle Topolino
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Roberto Distasio Television series;

1 episode

2012 Canepazzo Alvaro Genta
A Memória que me Contam Paolo
Django Unchained Amerigo Vessepi
The Woods Enzo Philipo
2013 Cadences obstinées Carmine
Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic Circles Introduction Italian version only
2014 Nymph Niko
Love Island Marquis Polesini
Figli di Maam Herod
2016 Il Ragazzo della Giudecca Salvatore
The Lost City of Z Baron de Gondoriz
2017 The Neighborhood Gugliemo
John Wick: Chapter 2 Julius
Der Mann aus dem Eis Ditob Stone Age thriller with Rhaetian dialogue.
The Time of Their Lives Alberto
2017–18 Delicious Joe Benelli Television series;

4 episodes

2018 The Broken Key Hiram Abif
Red Land - Rosso Istria Professor Ambrosin


  • 1985 - Will Change The World/Cambierà (Lovers, LVNP 802, 7" - with his son Carlo)


  1. (in Italian) Franco Nero in MyMovies
  2. "Movies" via
  3. (in Italian) Franco Nero in
  4. (in Italian) Franco Nero Archived 21 July 2012 at in Cinemastore Italy
  5. (in Italian) Francoo Nero Biography in
  6. Ann Pearce. "He Lost His Guenevere, Vanessa Redgrave, but Franco Nero Found His Camelot Back in Italy". People.
  7. Redazione online (5 December 2011). "San Severo, cittadinanza a Franco Nero". Corriere del Mezzogiorno. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  8. Paolo Russo (16 November 2014). ""Io, Django e Fassbinder" Franco Nero, che grande attore". La Repubblica. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  9. Franco Nero Interview from Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine (English subtitled)
  10. "Dass Franco Nero in diesem Film mitspielt, macht wirklich großen Spaß – schade nur, dass nach seinen Auftritten noch so viel Film übrig ist." Oliver Baumgarten. "Mord ist mein Geschäft, liebling". Filmzentrale. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  11. Yuen, Jenny (5 September 2011). "Italian Walk of Fame honours stars".
  12. System. "Franco Nero legge 'Il Pugile' di Gabriele Tinti".
  13. "Franco Nero Reads 'Songs Of Stone' By Gabriele Tinti".
  14. "Vanessa Redgrave speaks about marriage to second 'husband' for the first time". Telegraph. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  15. "Jack O'Brian's Mainland". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Honolulu, Hawaii. February 11, 1970. p. 49.
  16. Jack O'Brian (September 8, 1975). Goldie and Vanessa's Oldie. Lebanon Daily News
  17. Page Six (9 January 1986). Kiss & Tell. New Straits Times.
  18. Nero Fiddling?
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