Gian Maria Volontè
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Gian Maria Volonté (Milan, April 9, 1933 – Flórina, December 6, 1994) was an Italian actor. He has more fame for his performance as the main antagonist in the films of Sergio Leone for a handful of dollars and Per qualche dollaro in più (Death had a price). He was also considered one of the best European actors of his time for his ability to sink into the personality of his characters.
Volonté graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome in 1957. He had a brief career acting on television and works by Shakespeare and Goldoni before leaving to concentrate on his film career.
He made his debut in 1960 with Sotto dieci bandiere, directed by Duilio Coletti. Then he acted for economic reasons in two films he never considered serious, directed by a then unknown director: Sergio Leone. However, his masterful performance in memorable but neurotic characters, together with the unexpected worldwide success of the films, gave him international fame. Volonté had already made some comedies, among others A cavallo della tigre by Luigi Comencini, and affirmed his versatility in L’armata Brancaleone in 1966. However, he found his vocation in dramatic roles for Carlo Lizzani’s Banditi a Milano; Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina by Marco Bellocchio, La classe operaia goes in paradiso by Elio Petri and Il sospetto by Francesco Maselli.
In 1968 he won a Silver Ribbon for best actor for A ciascuno il suo, also directed by his friend Elio Petri. He received the same award twice more: the first for Investigation on a citizen free of all suspicion of 1970, directed by Petri, winner of an Oscar Prize, and considered by many as his best film; and the second by L’oeuvre au noir, directed by André Delvaux. In 1983 he won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for La morte di Mario Ricci. Four years later, at the Berlin Festival, he was once again a better actor for Il caso Moro, another exceptional proof of mimetic abilities. In 1990 he was declared the best European actor by Porte aperte. In 1991, at the Venice Festival, he won a Golden Lion for his career taken as a whole.
He also took relevant roles outside of Italy. In 1993 he filmed in Argentina Funes, a great love with Graciela Borges and under the direction of Raúl de la Torre.
Volonté died of a heart attack on December 6, 1994 in Flórina, where he was filming the movie La mirada de Ulises (his role was in charge of Erland Josephson). He suffered from lung cancer for fourteen years.
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