Italian Actor, Bodybuilder Franco Columbu Dies at 78

Jim Spellman
Franco Columbu

Columbu appeared in Arnold Schwarzenegger's films 'The Terminator,' 'The Running Man' and 'Conan the Barbarian.'

Italian bodybuilder, boxer and actor Franco Columbu, one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's closest friends, has died. He was 78.

Columbu died Friday in a hospital in his native Sardinia after being taken ill while he was swimming in the sea.

His longtime friend Schwarzenegger tweeted: "I love you Franco. I will always remember the joy you brought to my life, the advices you gave me, and the twinkle in your eye that never disappeared. You were my best friend."

After starting his career as a boxer, Columbu progressed into Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and later bodybuilding, winning the prestigious title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981.

In addition to his athletic career, Columbu also acted on popular TV series and in movies. He appeared in Schwarzenegger's films The Terminator, The Running Man and Conan the Barbarian.

Columbu was Schwarzenegger's best man at his marriage to Maria Shriver in 1986.