Childhood & Early Life
Gian Maria Volontè was born on April 9, 1933, in Milan, Italy, to Carolina Bianchi and Mario. He was raised in Turin, northern Italy along with his younger brother Claudio. After graduating from high school, Volontè moved to Rome to study performing arts in a drama school.
He dropped out of ‘Accademia Nazionale di Arte Drammatica Silvio D'Amico’ (drama school) in 1957 to pursue a career in acting. In the same year, he landed a supporting role in a television film titled ‘Fedra.’ In 1959, he appeared in a TV movie titled ‘Saul’ and then played Parfen Rogozin in a TV mini-series titled ‘L'idiota.’ He also went on to play minor roles on stage plays before making his film debut.
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Gian Maria Volontè made his film debut in 1960 when he was cast to play Samuel Braunstein in Duilio Coletti-directed Italian-American war film ‘Under Ten Flags.’ The following year, he was seen in four films, namely ‘Jail Break,’ ‘Hercules Conquers Atlantis,’ ‘Journey Beneath the Desert,’ and ‘Girl with a Suitcase.’
He received his breakthrough role in 1964 when he was cast to play Ramón Rojo in Sergio Leone-directed Spaghetti Western film ‘A Fistful of Dollars.’ In the same year, he played the leading role of Michelangelo in three episodes of long-running TV series ‘Vita di Michelangelo.’
In 1966, he played prominent roles in five films, namely ‘Seasons of Our Love,’ ‘Wake Up and Die,’ ‘For Love and Gold,’ ‘The Witch,’ and ‘A Gangstergirl.’ The following year, he played the title role in three episodes of long-running TV series ‘Caravaggio.’ In 1967, he was also seen in films, such as ‘A Bullet for the General,’ ‘We Still Kill the Old Way,’ and ‘Face to Face.’ In 1968, he won the ‘Silver Ribbon Award’ for ‘Best Actor’ for playing Prof. Paolo Laurana in ‘We Still Kill the Old Way.’
He won his second ‘Silver Ribbon Award’ for ‘Best Actor’ for playing Il Dottore (Former Head of Homicide Squad) in the 1970 Elio Petri-directed film ‘Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.’ His performance in the film is considered one of his finest works by many. In 1970, he was also seen in four other films, namely ‘Le Vent d'Est,’ ‘Many Wars Ago,’ ‘Le Cercle Rouge,’ and ‘Tre ipotesi sulla morte di Giuseppe Pinelli’ (short film).
In 1973, he played the title role in Giuliano Montaldo-directed biographical film ‘Giordano Bruno.’ In the same year, he played another title role in Francesco Rosi-directed biographical film ‘Lucky Luciano.’ The film follows the life of Mafia boss Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano from 1946 to 1962.
From 1975 to 1980, he played important roles in seven films, namely ‘The Suspect,’ ‘Letters from Marusia,’ ‘Todo modo,’ ‘I Am Afraid,’ ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli,’ and ‘Ogro.’ In 1982, he played Count Mosca in six episodes of long-running television series ‘The Charterhouse of Parma.’ The following year, he won the ‘Cannes Best Actor Award’ for his performance in Claude Goretta-directed Swiss-French drama film ‘The Death of Mario Ricci.’
In 1986, he was cast to play the lead role of Aldo Moro in the Italian crime drama film ‘The Moro Affair.’ His performance in the film earned him the ‘Silver Bear for Best Actor’ at ‘Berlin International Film Festival.’ The following year, he played prominent roles in a couple of films, namely ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ and ‘A Boy from Calabria.’
In 1988, he played the lead role of Zénon in André Delvaux-directed drama film ‘The Abyss.’ His portrayal of a Renaissance physician in the film earned him his third ‘Silver Ribbon Award’ for ‘Best Actor.’ In 1990, he played Judge Vito di Francesco in Gianni Amelio-directed Italian film ‘Open Doors.’ He was named ‘Best European Actor’ for his remarkable performance in ‘Open Doors.’
In 1991, he was honored with the Golden Lion which is the highest prize given at the Venice Film Festival. In 1993, he played the title role in José Luis García Sánchez-directed Spanish film ‘Tirano Banderas.’ This turned out to be his last film role as he passed away in 1994 while filming ‘Ulysses' Gaze.’
Family & Personal Life
Gian Maria Volontè’s father, Mario, was a fascist officer who was in command of a fascist paramilitary group called ‘Brigata Nera’ in 1944. His mother, Carolina Bianchi, was born into a wealthy Milanese industrial family. Volontè had a younger brother named Claudio Camaso who too was an actor. Camaso committed suicide in 1977 after killing a man by accident.
In June 1959, Volontè married Tiziana Mischi. After parting ways with Tiziana Mischi in 1962, he began a relationship with actress Gravina whom he had met in 1960 when they were part of a stage play. Volontè and Gravina had a daughter named Giovanna Volonté who was born in the early-1960s.
On August 10, 1983, he married actress and writer Armenia Balducci. Meanwhile, he had also started a relationship with actress Angelica Ippolito in 1977. Ippolito was in relationship with Volontè at the time of his death. He died after suffering a cardiac arrest on December 6, 1994. He was at Florina, Greece where he was filming ‘Ulysses' Gaze’ before collapsing on the set. His mortal remains were buried in the Sardinian island of Isola della Maddalena.