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ROME – Giulio Andreotti, the tenacious and powerful seven-time Italian prime minister who was the subject of Paolo Sorrentino’s 2008 Cannes Jury prize-winning biopic Il Divo, died Monday at his home in Rome. He was 94.
Andreotti was without a doubt one of the main protagonists of the post-World War II era in Italy, with a political career that stretched from the first postwar government in 1947 through serving as prime minister over seven separate governments, five stints as a minister, and a senator for life since 1991. He had been the last surviving member of the country’s first postwar government.
Andreotti also was alleged to have had ties to the Sicilian Mafia and was implicated in what was billed as the Mafia Trial of the Century in Palermo, though he was cleared of charges. It is that aspect of Andreotti’s life that Sorrentino explored in Il Divo, in which Andreotti was portrayed by Italian acting maestro Toni Servillo. The transformation of Servillo for the role earned the film an Oscar nomination for makeup.
The film was mostly critical of Andreotti, who nonetheless gave his blessing to the project. But after it was released, Andreotti said he wished Sorrentino had waited to release the film until after his death.
Andreotti was a noted film lover who famously had a cameo role, as himself, across from iconic comedic actor Alberto Sordi in Il tassinaro (The Taxi Driver) in 1983. The two discussed Italian social and economic problems that are still in the news today.
Until his health deteriorated in recent years, Andreotti was a regular at Italy’s David di Donatello awards, the country’s most prestigious film honors.
It is widely believed that Don Licio Lucchesi, a political kingpin with close ties to the Vatican in Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather Part III, was modeled on Andreotti.
Though Andreotti’s political role had been reduced to his Senate seat since 1992, he was briefly mentioned as a candidate to become Italy’s president in 2006 before the current president, Giorgio Napolitano, was selected. And in 2008, he played a central role in toppling the government headed by former European Commission president Romano Prodi.
Andreotti’s political career spanned nearly seven decades, and he was often philosophical about the influence he wielded, famously telling an interviewer once, “Power can wear you out … if you don’t have it.”
As news of his death spread Monday, tributes to Andreotti rolled in from all directions, with Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno calling Andreotti “the most representative politician” in modern Italian history and former Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema saying that the death of Andreotti “takes away one of the great protagonists of Italian politics and democracy.” In La Repubblica, Matteo Tonelli wrote, “To speak of Giulio Andreotti is to speak of Italy.” Television broadcasters broke into regular programming to announce the news, and it was the top story on online news sites.
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