The 80 years of Franco Nero, in the name of infinite love for Vanessa Redgrave

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Franco Nero blows out eighty candles. But He doesn’t look 80 years old nor do you hear them: «60, at the most! And I have a lot to do “. Born in San Prospero in the province of Parma on November 23, 1941 as Franco Sparanero, the son of a carabinieri marshal from Puglia and the housewife Nina, he has a long career behind him that began in the theater: “As a kid, in Parma, I used to organize little shows in dialect. The comrades made fun of me, but I answered “You will see!”. In fact, I was a student of Strehler and, when I started my career, the great teacher recommended me: you must say that you studied with me! ». At twenty-six thanks to the success of Django in Italy it was already a spaghetti western icon. But to him – the perfect body of the sportsman, the regular features illuminated by the blue gaze – it wasn’t enough to be “the beautiful”. As soon as he could he escaped from Italy to work with masters like Buñuel and Fassbinder. Today it has over two hundred films and television series behind it. Only in the last few months has he directed a film, The man who designed God with Kevin Spacey (“He was proposed to me, he is one of the best actors in the world, why not? If one is wrong in life, you have to know how to forgive”) and he participated in four others. “I have so many proposals, I’m reading an infinite number of scripts, from Spain they are asking me to impersonate the Pope …”.

But if cinema is important, at the center of Franco Nero’s life is the infinite bond with Vanessa Redgrave. Galeotto was, in 1966, the set of Camelot: he was Lancelot, she was Guinevere, he was 25, she was 29. It seemed impossible an understanding between a western actor of modest origins and a Redgrave, daughter of art, married to Tony Richardson and mother of two daughters (Natasha, who disappeared in 2009 following a mountain accident, and Joely). For Franco, however, it was certainly not love at first sight: “When I first met her on set, I said to director Logan: how ugly she is! She was thin, without make-up, wore ripped jeans. I was used to the flourishing Italian beauties! ». But Vanessa invited him to dinner with other actors: “I ring the door and a wonderful woman comes to open it, I don’t recognize her and I say: good evening, I was invited by Redgrave. She laughs and exclaims: it’s me! Then our bond took off on a romantic evening in San Francisco: a sentimental and work union. “

A year later Vanessa divorced Richardson and settled with Franco in a house in St. Peter’s Square. In love and happy, the two actors were inseparable. They shot another movie together, A quiet place in the countryside by Elio Petri, they showed themselves together with Cannes Film Festival of 1967 and to Oscar ceremony in 1969, the year in which theirs was born only child, Carlo.

It seemed like the love of life and instead after a while, the two broke up: Vanessa Redgrave had an affair that lasted well 15 years with colleague Timothy Dalton (started on the set of Mary, Queen of Scots) and Franco Nero in 1987 became a father for the second time: Franquito was born from the relationship with the young Afro-Colombian Mauricia Mena. Every one on his own way? Not at all. At every call from Vanessa, Franco ran, and not just for the normal confrontation as Carlo’s parents. Like when she called him from Paris and made him stop shooting a film in Vienna. “He needed my presence on stage during his theater recital for a week. In the end he greeted me and left, without worrying about the fact that in the meantime I had lost my film in Vienna, ”Nero recalled. “In reality there has never been a real definitive break between Vanessa and me».

And in fact the two, in 2010, revealed that they had each other married in secret in 2006, 50 years after their first meeting. A simple ceremony in the Don Bosco Village in Tivoli. “My son Carlo played a fundamental role: it was he who put the ring on my fingerVanessa told the BBC. Redgrave and Franco Nero separated, sometimes they didn’t hear from each other for a while, often they had fierce fights, they abandoned each other and found each other several times. But, in fact, they never really broke up. Vanessa admires his generosity, his passion for cinema, defines him as “the most beautiful old man in the world”. He defines his wife, champion of a thousand battles – for Palestinian independence, for Kosovo, for Chechnya, for human rights, for refugees, for women – “the pasionaria, Mother Teresa of London, Joan of ‘Arch of our time ». Life “is sometimes very complicated,” Nero admitted speaking to Los Angeles Times. But Vanessa has it “always loved».

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