Francesco Clemente Giuseppe Sparanero (born 23 November 1941), better known as Franco Nero, is an Italian actor and director.
After a few supporting roles, his Breakthrough Hit was as the titular character in the classic Spaghetti Western Django, which shot him to superstar status and made him one of the highest-grossing actors in Italy, which he eventually parlayed into a successful career in Hollywood. He's regarded as one of the icons of Spaghetti Western and poliziotteschi (Italian crime film) genres that's earned him cult status.
Off-camera, he's known for his years-long relationship with Vanessa Redgrave, that eventually culiminated in their marriage in 2006.
His filmography includes:
- 1965 I Knew Her Well as Italo
- 1966 Django as Django
- 1966 The Bible: In the Beginning... as Abel
- 1967 Camelot as Lancelot
- 1970 Tristana as Horacio
- 1970 Compañeros as Yodalf Peterson
- 1971 Don't Turn the Other Cheek! as Dmitri Vassilovich Orlowsky
- 1973 White Fang as Jason Scott
- 1976 Keoma as Keoma Shannon
- 1978 Force 10 from Navarone as Captain Lescovar
- 1979 The Visitor as Jesus
- 1981 Enter The Ninja as Cole
- 1990 Die Hard 2 as General Esperanza
- 2010 Letters to Juliet Lorenzo Bartolini
- 2011 Cars 2 as Uncle Topolino
- 2011 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Roberto Distasio
- 2012 Django Unchained as Amerigo Vessepi
- 2016 The Lost City of Z as Baron de Gondoriz
- 2017 John Wick: Chapter 2 as Julius
- 2021 Off The Rails 2021 as Giovanni
- Badass Baritone: His voice has deepened pretty considerably as he's aged.
- Badass Beard: Sports one of these in many of his roles, especially once he entered middle age.
- Classically Trained Extra: Nero apprenticed at the acclaimed Piccolo Teatro in Milan and performed Shakespeare and other classical roles on stage early in his career. He was reluctant at first to play Django because he feared taking a role in a Western would prevent critics from taking him seriously. His fears proved unfounded, and Nero still got to play dramatic parts occasionally alongside his more famous action roles.
- Fake Nationality: He played the deposed Latino dictator of a Banana Republic in Die Hard 2, a French knight in Camelot, and a Texan martial artist in Enter the Ninja. He also his fair share of Americans and non-Italian Europeans in his Spaghetti Westerns.
- In Force 10 from Navarone, he plays a Nazi German spy disguised as a Yugoslavian partisan.
- Fake Mixed Race: He played a half-Native American Civil War veteran in Keoma.
- He Also Did:
- Technically began the ninja craze in films in the 80s by starring in the first Cannon ninja movie.
- Recorded a music album, and directed a film in 2005.
- Real-Life Relative: He's starred opposite his real-life romantic partner Vanessa Redgrave many times, beginning with Camelot.
- Same Language Dub: Until the early 70s, he was usually dubbed in both Italian and English. Nero learned English from John Huston while making The Bible (1966), though it took him decades to master the language. In Enter the Ninja he was dubbed by Marc Smith as, by Nero's own admission, he couldn't speak English nowhere near fluently enough to do a Texan accent.