HToday Franco Nero could, if he were only roughly as old as his identity card says, today, on his milestone birthday, he could look back on a tremendous oeuvre: Franco Nero has acted in more than two hundred films – and the beginnings of his career are enough back to the beginning of all time, to the years soon after the creation of the world, to 1965 when he played Abel in John Huston’s monumental film “The Bible”. Which, according to the plot of the original, was a short but impressive performance.
John Huston, when he was preparing the film in Cinecittà, discovered and encouraged him, Nero, who was unsure at the time whether he should really be an actor, and immediately cast him. But Franco Nero had his first noteworthy appearance shortly before that, in the beautiful, casual and completely unjustifiably forgotten film “I knew her well”, in which, in elegant and glamorous black and white, it was about girls who become something want in Rome. About the men who want to end up with these girls. And about Franco Nero, who reversed this situation for a short scene because he looks so stunning in it that now it is he who arouses the desire.
But it looks like Franco Nero has no time to look back today. He prefers to keep shooting, one film after the other. “L’uomo che disegnò Dio” has just finished, the film in which he gave Kevin Spacey the chance to rehabilitate himself. The usual Internet portals name at least ten projects that are in production or being prepared, including a television series based on the Divine Comedy. And two films in which he will continue to play his old roles, “Keoma Awakens” and “Django Lives”.
For a few dollars
Django, he has been dragging the role around with him since 1966 – like Django, when the film starts, pulls a coffin behind him, a burden that is also his life insurance. It was a cheap film, said to have cost little more than a hundred thousand dollars; turned down quickly, based on a few script pages; and the basic conflict was already copied from Sergio Leone’s “For a Fistful of Dollars”.
Django, the figure is stored in the collective memory as a southern macho in western costume, as a tough, terrifying gunslinger. When they meet again, one is all the more astonished at how sensitive, sensual, almost soft the facial features of Franco Nero are here; how hard he has to exert himself if he is to show hardness. And how touching it is that a supposedly weak woman saves him from sinking miserably and perishing in the quicksand in the end. His bright, light blue eyes outshone all the veils of fiction, not only in this film: in the most intense moments it was often as if Franco Nero was looking at you, very directly, without going through any role.
Even so, “Django” was a cynical movie, a celebration of shooting and killing. And when Franco Nero then repeatedly played the prosecutors and mafia hunters in Italian films, for example in Damiano Damiani’s impressive “The Clan That Walled Up Its Enemies”: It was as if he was now fighting all the more doggedly for the law that he imposed Broken and mocked the Wild West so often. It was like finally trying to arrest himself.
Two hundred films prove: Franco Nero can play almost anyone. You just have to look him in the eye, then you will believe his every word and every role anyway. Today he is eighty years old. And just keep playing.
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