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Bud Spencer, the Italian star of numerous spaghetti Westerns, died peacefully in Rome on Monday. He was 86.
Spencer’s son Giuseppe Pedersoli confirmed the news in a short statement: “My father died peacefully at 18:15 and did not suffer from pain, he had all of us next to him and his last words were ‘Thank you.’”
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tweeted, “Ciao #BudSpencer We loved you so much.”
Born in Naples, Spencer started as an Olympic athlete in both swimming and water polo, competing in 1952 and 1956. He was the first Italian to swim the 100-meter freestyle race in under a minute. Spencer earned a degree in law and registered several patents in his name.
He began acting in the late 1940s, but it wasn’t until the late ‘60s that his career took off. Spencer, real name Carlo Pedersoli, chose the name Bud Spencer after his favorite brand of beer, Budweiser, and for American actor Spencer Tracy. Director Giuseppe Colizzi was an admirer of the then 38-year-old swimming champion when he recruited him to star as a strong man in his Western God Forgives … I Don’t! in 1967. The production team asked him to change his name to a more American-sounding moniker to appeal to international audiences.
Spencer grew to become a star of spaghetti Westerns, known for his towering height and friendly spirit. He partnered with Terence Hill for a string of successful hits including 1970’s They Call Me Trinity, which became the highest-grossing Italian film of the time. A year later they beat their own record with the sequel Trinity Is Still My Name.
Spencer and Hill continued to have dozens of hits throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, including The Knock Out Cop and Double Trouble. The duo garnered world acclaim and attracted millions to theater seats.
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Spencer achieved great acclaim on various series on Italian TV.
He tried out a short stint in politics in 2005 at the request of then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, running under the center-right Forza Italia party in an act that was criticized by leftists as “showbiz politics.”
Over his career, Spencer was active in supporting multiple children’s charities, initiating the Spencer Scholarship Fund.
He was awarded a David di Donatello lifetime achievement award with Hill in 2008.
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