Tomas Milian

Tomas Milian (born Tomás Quintín Rodriguez-Varona Milian Salinas De La Fé y Alvarez De La Campa;[1] 3 March 1933 – 22 March 2017) was a Cuban American actor and singer with Italian citizenship, known for the emotional intensity and humour he brought to roles in European genre films.

Tomas Milian
Milian in Emergency Squad (1974)
Tomás Quintín Rodriguez-Varona Milian Salinas De La Fé y Alvarez De La Campa

(1933-03-03)3 March 1933
Died22 March 2017(2017-03-22) (aged 84)
Miami, Florida, United States
Years active1957–2017
Height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Margherita Valetti (m. 19642012)
(her death)
AwardsFIPRESCI Prize for Best Actor
1965 Time of Indifference

Silver Ribbon Award for Best Supporting Actor
1980 La Luna

Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2001 Traffic

A student of Lee Strasberg, Milian studied method acting at the Actors Studio in New York City. In Italy, he was discovered by director Mauro Bolognini and appeared in supporting roles in several drama films during the late-1950s and early-1960s, including as Raphael in Carol Reed's The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965). Throughout the late-1960s and early-1970s, Milian established himself as a dynamic leading actor in a series of Spaghetti Western films, most notably The Big Gundown (1966) and Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (1967).[2][3]

Following a decline in the popularity of Spaghetti Westerns, Milian transitioned to roles in poliziottesco films. After receiving acclaim for his performance as a psychotic killer in Almost Human (1974), he made appearances in Emergency Squad (1974), The Tough Ones (1976) and The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist (1977). After returning to the United States in 1985, Milian continued to perform supporting roles in film productions, including JFK (1991), Amistad (1997), Traffic (2000) and The Lost City (2005).[3] Milian died in 2017.


Milian was born in Havana as the son of a Cuban general. His father was arrested and jailed: he later committed suicide on December 31, 1946. Milián then decided to leave Cuba and pursue his wishes of being an actor.[4] He settled in the United States to study at New York's Actors Studio[5] and later became an American citizen. In 1969, he became a naturalized Italian citizen.[4]

Milian was bisexual; prior to his marriage to actress Margherita Valletti, he had relationships with both men and women.[6]


After starting a career in the United States, Milian went to Italy in 1958 to take part in a theatre festival in Spoleto.[7] He eventually decided to relocate to Italy, where he lived for over 25 years, becoming a very successful performer. His first film part in Italy was in the 1959 picture La notte brava. Although his voice was usually dubbed due to his accent, Milián performed his lines in Italian (or in English, depending on the film). He initially starred in arthouse movies and worked with directors such as Mauro Bolognini and Luchino Visconti.[4]

After five years of making what he deemed "intellectual" movies, Milián was unhappy with his contract with producer Franco Cristaldi and thought of going back to the United States. Needing money to start over, he took the opportunity to star as a bandit in a spaghetti western called The Bounty Killer. The film boosted his career,[8] and ultimately resulted in his staying in Italy. He became a star of the spaghetti western genre,[9] where he often played Mexican bandits or revolutionaries, roles in which he spoke in his real voice. He starred in The Ugly Ones (1966), The Big Gundown (1966), Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (1967), Face to Face (1967), Run, Man, Run (1968), Death Sentence (1968), Tepepa (1969), Compañeros (1970), Sonny and Jed (1972), Life Is Tough, Eh Providence? (1972) and Four of the Apocalypse (1975).

As the spaghetti westerns dwindled, Milián remained a star in many genre films, playing both villains and heroes in various polizieschi movies. He starred with Barbara Bouchet in the giallo Don't Torture a Duckling.[3] In addition to his role in Almost Human (1974) and appearances in Emergency Squad (1974), The Tough Ones (1976) and The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist (1977), he also appeared in two film series - Bruno Corbucci's Nico Giraldi series (1976-1984, beginning with The Cop in Blue Jeans) and Umberto Lenzi's Er Monnezza films (1976-1980, beginning with Free Hand for a Tough Cop). His other films during this period include the giallo Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) and the non-genre films The Last Movie (1971), Luna (1979), Identification of a Woman (1982) and Monsignor (1982).

He later turned to comedy, playing the recurrent characters of petty thief Monnezza and Serpico-like police officer Nico Giraldi in a variety of crime-comedy pictures. Although his voice was dubbed most of the time by Ferruccio Amendola, Milián wrote his own lines in Roman slang. Milián's inventive use of romanesco (Roman dialect) made him a cult performer in Italy. Bruno Corbucci, the director of many of these films commented, "At the cinemas as soon as Tomás Milián appeared on the screen, when he made a wisecrack and in the heaviest situations, then it was a pandemonium, it was like being at the stadium."

As Milián used similar makeups and accents in portraying both characters, Monnezza and Nico were occasionally confused by Italian audiences, who sometimes referred erroneously to them both as Monnezza, or Er Monnezza (Da trash in Roman slang ), and still closely associate Milián with these performances.[10]

Milián also appeared in non-genre pictures, such as Bernardo Bertolucci's La Luna, for which he won a Nastro d'Argento for Best supporting Actor, and Michelangelo Antonioni's Identification of a Woman.[11]

As he grew older, Milián decided to go back to the United States. He appeared in Sidney Pollack's Havana, Steven Spielberg's Amistad, Steven Soderbergh's Traffic as well as Andy García's The Lost City, about Revolutionary Cuba. He has also played many roles on stage. In 2005, he portrayed Generalisimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina in the film version of Mario Vargas Llosa's novel The Feast of the Goat.[12]

Milian was found dead from a stroke at his home in Miami on 22 March 2017.[13][14]

On October 11, 2017 he received the Leone in Memoriam award at the 7º Almería Western Film Festival.[15] It was picked up by his friend Luis Santeiro.[16]



  1. "Biografia | Tomas Milian". (in Italian). Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  2. The Big Gundown (Tomas Milian: Acting on Instinct) (DVD). Los Angeles, California: Grindhouse Releasing. 1968.
  3. Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (Tomas Milian Talent Bio) (DVD). Los Angeles, California: Blue Underground. 1967.
  4. "Tomas Milian biography". Virgilio (in Italian). Archived from the original on August 10, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  5. Frignani, Rinaldo (December 21, 2009). "Tomas Milian ancora sbirro. Per fiction". Corriere della sera (in Italian). Roma: RCS Quotidiani Spa. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  6. Sansonna, Giuseppe (2014). The Cuban Hamlet – Storia di Tomas Milian [The Cuban Hamlet - History of Tomas Milian] (in Italian). RAI.
  7. "Tomas Milian biography". Yahoo! Movies (in Italian). Yahoo!. 2006. Archived from the original on October 21, 2009. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  8. Gomarasca, Manlio (July 23, 2009). "Tomás Milián: Un'Avventurosa Storia Nei Generi (1)". Nocturno (in Italian). Archived from the original on October 7, 2009. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  9. Martínez, Alejandro (July 26, 2009). "Tomas Milian orgullo de los cubanos en Miami". Cuba en Miami (in Spanish). Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  10. ""Er Monnezza" finisce sulla Treccani". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Roma: RCS Quotidiani Spa. October 6, 2004. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  11. Canby, Vincent (September 30, 1982). "ANTONIONI'S MYSTERY 'IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN'". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  12. Holland, Jonathan (February 23, 2006). "Review: 'The Feast of the Goat'". Variety. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  13. "Addio a "Er monnezza": è morto a Miami Tomas Milian". Giornale di Sicilia. March 23, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  14. Ugolini, Chiarla (March 23, 2017). "E' morto Tomas Milian, attore cubano rinato Er Monnezza". La Repubblica. GEDI Gruppo Editoriale S.p.A. Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  15. Europa Press (October 12, 2017). "Almería Western Film Festival concede el premio 'Leone in Memoriam' a Tomás Milian". Ideal (in Spanish). Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  16. "Almería Western Film Festival concede el premio 'Leone in Memoriam' a Tomás Milian". Almeria Westerm Film Festival (in Spanish). October 11, 2017. Retrieved January 1, 2018.

Further reading

  • Giorgio Navarro, Fabio Zanello, Tomas Milian. Er cubbano de Roma, Molino, 1999; ISBN 8890035935.
  • Max Serio, Tomas Milian: The Tough Bandit, the Rough Cop and the Filthy Rat in Italian Cinema, Mediane, 2009; ISBN 8896042127.
  • Gordiano Lupi, Tomas Milian, il trucido e lo sbirro, Profondo Rosso Editore, 2011; ISBN 8889084502.
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