Childhood & Early Life
Franco Nero was born Francesco Clemente Giuseppe Sparanero, on November 23, 1941, in San Prospero Parmense, Italy. His father was a police sergeant in Italy. Nero spent his childhood in Bedonia and Milan. Not much is known about his parents.
During his teenage years, Nero showed a serious inclination toward acting. He was active in school plays. He studied economy and trade for a brief period. Later, he trained in theater at the ‘Piccolo Teatro di Milano.’ Before entering the domain of films, Nero juggled with several jobs. He worked as a painting photographer for a short period of time.
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In 1962, Franco Nero started his career in films with a small role in the Italian drama ‘Pelle viva.’ In 1965, he performed minor roles in several other movies, such as ‘I Knew Her Well’ and ‘Wild, Wild Planet.’
In 1966, Nero bagged his first lead role in the Italian “Spaghetti Western” movie ‘Django.’ It was directed by Sergio Corbucci. The movie featured him in the titular role of ‘Django,’ a vagabond, who was shown resorting to violence to have his way. Nero performed the part brilliantly. It was a major breakthrough in his career.
In 1966, Nero played lead roles in several other movies, too, such as ‘Massacre Time’ and ‘The Third Eye.’ Most of his movies were of crime and horror genres. The same year, he bagged his first American movie, ‘The Bible: In the Beginning...’ The movie featured him as ‘Abel,’ the son of ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve.’
In 1967, Nero played the role of ‘Lancelot’ in the American musical comedy–drama ‘Camelot.’ It was a huge success and helped Nero move out of the crime genre. His performance in the movie fetched Nero a nomination for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Most Promising Newcomer.’
In 1968, Nero played ‘Captain Bellodi’ in the crime thriller ‘The Day of the Owl.’ The same year, he played a greedy mercenary, ‘Sergei Kowalski,’ in the movie ‘The Mercenary.’ In 1969, Nero acted in the Yugoslavian war movie ‘Battle of Neretva.’
Nero’s lack of expertise in the English language affected his growth in English movies to some extent. In 1970, he played the role of a gypsy in the British drama ‘The Virgin and the Gypsy.’ In 1971, he played ‘Deputy DA Traini’ in the Italian crime movie ‘Confessions of a Police Captain.’ Nero won the ‘Italian Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Best Actor’ for his performance in this movie.
In 1978, Franco Nero appeared in the British war movie ‘Force 10 from Navarone.’ In 1980, he appeared as ‘Hakim’ in the comedy ‘The Man with Bogart’s Face.’ In 1981, Nero played the role of ‘Cole’ in the American ninja movie ‘Enter the Ninja.’ This was a highly successful movie and generated a public interest for ninja movies.
In 1982, Nero played the role of ‘John Reed,’ a revolutionary communist journalist, in the movie ‘Red Bells.’ He played the same role in the movie’s sequel, ‘Red Bells II,’ in 1983. In 1987, Nero played the role of ‘Django’ once again, in the sequel of the first instalment, ‘Django Strikes Again.’ In 1990, he appeared as ‘General Ramon Esperanza’ in the movie ‘Die Hard 2.’
In the 1990s, Nero appeared in several TV series, too. Some of them were ‘The Dragon Ring,’ ‘The Return of Sandokan,’ ‘Painted Lady,’ and ‘Desert of Fire.’ In 1996, he played ‘Adolfo Cavani’ in the British thriller ‘The Innocent Sleep.’ In 1999, Nero appeared in the Italian movies ‘Brigands’ and ‘Uninvited.’
In 2001, Nero played ‘General Francini’ in the science-fiction movie ‘Megiddo: The Omega Code 2.’ In 2004, Nero appeared as ‘Padre’ in the Italian drama ‘Guardians of the Clouds.’ In 2005, Franco Nero made his directorial debut with the Italian drama ‘Forever Blues.’ The movie also featured ‘Nero’ as ‘Luca.’
In 2009, Nero played an eccentric author, ‘Enrico Puzzo,’ in the German comedy ‘Mord ist mein Geschaft, Liebling.’ His character was that of an Italian author with close ties with the mafia. Nero’s performance in the movie was appreciated by both his critics and his fans. In 2010, Nero appeared in the movie ‘Letters to Juliet.’
In 2011, Nero played the narrator in the Italian movie ‘Rasputin.’ The same year, he lent his voice to the character of ‘Uncle Topolino’ in the animation movie ‘Cars 2.’ In 2012, Nero made a cameo appearance in the movie ‘Django Unchained.’ In 2016, he appeared in the biographical movie ‘The Lost City of Z.’ Nero is set to appear in the upcoming film ‘The Broken Key.’
In the 1960s, Franco Nero was in a relationship with British actor Vanessa Redgrave. They met during the filming of ‘Camelot,’ which featured Nero as ‘Lancelot’ and Vanessa as ‘Guenevere.’ The couple had a son, Carlo Nero, in 1969.
They separated after living together for a few years. In 2006, after many years of separation, the couple remarried.
During the 1970s, Nero dated several actors, such as Catherine Deneuve, Goldie Hawn, and Ursula Andress. In 1987, a woman named Mauricia Mena filed a paternity suit against Nero, claiming that he was the father of her son.
Franco Nero is a philanthropist. He is a benefactor of the ‘Don Bosco Orphanage’ in Tivoli. He has received many awards for his acting skills. He was awarded a knighthood by the Italian Republic, honoring his contribution to the field of art.