SWDB Hall of Fame/Leading Actors
From The Spaghetti Western Database
October 16, 1937 (Clarksburg West Virginia, USA)-
Born Anthony Pettito, Anthony not only starred in several memorable Spaghetti Westerns, but was a producer, writer or both in all of these films as well. He first starred as the “Stranger” in A Stranger in Town (1967). Released by MGM and passed off as an imitation of the “Dollars Trilogy”, Anthony nevertheless brought his own unique spin to the titular character. Anthony played the role more vulnerable and sneaky than his Clint Eastwood counterpart and the film became a sleeper hit. Anthony went on reprise his role as “The Stranger” in two sequels, The Stranger Returns (1967) and The Silent Stranger aka The Stranger in Japan (1968). He starred in the Zatoichi inspired Blindman (1971). The film was also a big hit and remains his best known role. He also starred in the bizarre fantasy western, Get Mean (1976), which is considered to be an unofficial forth entry in the “Stranger” series of films. His last Spaghetti Western vehicle was the 3D film Comin’ At Ya! (1981) which was successful enough in the states to help set off 3D films as a brief fad in the early 1980s. Besides westerns, Anthony also starred in the 3D adventure film, Treasure of the Four Crowns (1983). He also helped to produce Wild Orchid (1989) and the TV western, Dollar for the Dead (1998).
May 31, 1930 (San Francisco California, USA)-
He starred in only three Spaghetti Westerns, yet he is easily the most recognizable face in the genre. The three Sergio Leone directed films, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) catapulted Eastwood to worldwide stardom, with each successive film grander than the previous. Initially derided by the critics, the films are now generally recognized as masterpieces. Today, those three films, and Eastwood’s unforgettable portrayal of the laconic, anti-hero, “the man with no name”, have embedded themselves into the mainstream consciousness. Eastwood’s iconic role paved the way and set the standard for other Spaghetti Western stars. Eastwood returned to America and used his success in the Spaghetti Western genre as a launching pad for his legendary, multi-decade long career in Hollywood as both an actor and director in westerns and non-westerns alike, including Dirty Harry (1971), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), and Gran Torino (2008). His crowning achievements are perhaps his western Unforgiven (1992), and the boxing drama Million Dollar Baby (2004), both of which he starred, directed, and one two Oscars for each. But even with all his Hollywood super-stardom, his roles in the “Man With No Name" trilogy remain among his most iconic achievement in film.
|Gianni Garko aka John Garko
July 15, 1935 (Zadar, Italy now Croatia)-
Born Giovanni Garkovich, Garko was initially billed as Gary Hudson in his first two Spaghetti Westerns, but was later billed as John Garko in many of his subsequent films. Garko is best known for portraying one of the most popular and iconic characters in the Spaghetti Western genre, “Sartana”, in four films. Garko played unrelated characters sharing the same name in two other films as well. The Sartana character, an almost superhuman gunfighter and gambler who combined elements of James Bond and Mandrake the Magician became so popular in Europe that many unofficial sequels were spawned. Garko himself appeared in a total of 14 Spaghetti Westerns from 1966 to 1973 (of which 5 were directed by long time collaborator Giuliano Carnimeo), many of them experiencing strong box office success and continued acclaim from fans. He also appeared in Bad Man's River (1971), alongside Lee Van Cleef. A handsome, talented and versatile actor, Garko has a total of 99 film and television credits to his name in a variety of genres in a career spanning almost 50 years, including the Oscar nominated Kapo (1959), Il Boss (1973), Lucio Fulci's classi Giallo The Psychic (1977) and the infamous Devil Fish (1984). But it is for his portrayal of the beloved anti-hero Sartana, for which he is most noted for.
|Giuliano Gemma aka Montgomery Wood
September 22, 1938 (Rome, Italy)- October 1, 2013 (Civitavecchia, Italy)
“Il Pistolero Nazionale” started out as a stuntman in Peplum movies, but eventually became Italy’s most beloved star during the golden age of Spaghetti Westerns. Billed as Montgomery Wood in his early westerns, his lead roles in Duccio Tessari’s A Pistol for Ringo (1964) and Return of Ringo (1965) were box office smashes during the genre's early years. Although he occasionally played the laconic, gritty tough guy typical of the genre, he more often played grinning, boyish, smart-mouthed heroes. The athletic “Angel Face” had exceptional gun twirling skills and always performed his own stunts and action sequences. In all, Gemma starred in 17 westerns over a 20 year period, almost all of which were box office bonanzas in Italy, including One Silver Dollar (1966), The White, the Yellow and the Black (1975) and The Price of Power' (1969). Even genre heavyweights Franco Nero and Lee Van Cleef were hard pressed to match the commercial success of Gemma’s westerns in his homeland. Perhaps his most notable role in a western was playing Van Cleef’s Protégé in Day of Anger (1967). Outside of the Italian western genre, his most notable role was in Dario Argento’s giallo Tenebre (1982) and Even Angels Eat Beans (1973), Angelique (1964), The Leopard (1963) and Mad Love (2001). Still active in Television at the time of his death, he was also an accomplished sculptor.
|Anthony Ghidra aka Dragomir "Gidra" Bojanic
June 13, 1933 (Kragujevac, Kingdom of Yugoslavia now Serbia) - November 11, 1993 (Belgrade, Serbia, formerly Yugoslavia)
Known by his nickname “Gidra” in his homeland, this talented Serbian actor put forth several memorable performances as a Spaghetti Western leading man. His real name was Dragomir Bojanić, but he was billed as Anthony Ghidra in all of his Spaghetti Western films. His first western was a small role in the German Karl May western Among Vultures aka Frontier Hellcat (1964). He then went on play the lead in five Spaghetti Westerns, of which the best known is probably the unofficial “Django” Sequel, Django the Last Killer, as “Django”, a mentor to George Eastman. Perhaps his best performance was as a cowardly and alcoholic Sheriff in Tequila Joe (1968). Outside of the Spaghetti Western genre, he had over 100 film and television credits, usually in Yugoslavian cinema. He gained considerable fame throughout the Eastern Bloc, starring as the character “Zika” in the popular “Lude godine” series of comedy films. He played the character a total of ten times from 1978 to 1992, and it remains his best known role. He also had a supporting role in Walter Defends Sarajevo (1972). He continued to act until his death.
May 26, 1936 (Salt Lake City UT, USA)-
Handsome and muscular, Harrison was one of the most prolific American import actors in the Spaghetti Western genre, starring in 17 such films, including one that he directed. Bit roles in South Pacific (1958) and Kronos (1957) lead to a supporting role in the sci fi film, Master of the World (1961). He went to Italy and starred in several peplum films, utilizing his bodybuilder’s physique in films such as Medusa Against the Son of Hercules (1963). Harrison then turned his attention to Spaghetti Westerns. $100,000 For Ringo (1965) was a smash box office hit in Italy and one of the most successful of the early era Spaghetti Westerns. He also starred in the cult classic, Vengeance (1968) as well as Between God, the Devil and a Winchester (1968) and Holy Water Joe (1971). In 1987, he co-wrote the late Spaghetti Western, Scalps. Outside of the western genre, he has had roles in over 100 films. He is perhaps best known for starring in several Z-Grade exploitation pictures including Ninja Terminator (1985) and Ninja the Protector (1986), directed by the infamous Godfrey Ho, as well as Evil Spawn (1987) and Joe D’Amato’s Sex and Black Magic (1982). However, he also starred in several films of higher quality, including the Euro-crime film, Beast with a Gun (1977).
March 29, 1939 (Venice, Italy)-
Born Mario Girotti, the blue-eyed actor initially played small parts in Italian and German films (including a couple of German Karl May westerns), but later adopted the name Terence Hill and starred in some of the most commercially successful Italian westerns ever made, many of them co-starring with Bud Spencer. He starred with Spencer in three westerns directed by Giuseppe Colizzi known as the “Cat Stevens" trilogy, all of which were box office successes. Because of his striking resemblance to Franco Nero, Hill was cast as the character “Django” in Ferdinando Baldi’s Django, Prepare a Coffin AKA Viva Django (1968), often cited as among the best of the unofficial Django sequels. Hill and Spencer made history and changed the face of the Spaghetti Western when they starred in two comedy-westerns, They Call Me Trinity (1970) and Trinity is Still My Name (1971), the second of which broke box office records in Italy and established both Hill and Spencer as cult film stars in America. Hill continued to collaborate with Spencer in commercially successful comedies, over the next two decades including Watch Out, We're Mad (1974) and Crime Busters (1977). He also starred with Gene Hackman in March or Die (1977). Perhaps Hill’s greatest achievement has been starring alongside Henry Fonda in the Spaghetti Western spoof My Name is Nobody (1973). Hill Continues to be active in Italian television today, including the hit Italian television series, Don Matteo (2000-).
July 16, 1934 (Montevideo, Uruguay) -
Born Jorge Hill Acosta y Lara, Hilton starred in a total of 21 Spaghetti Westerns. Often known for tongue and cheek portrayals of gunfighters with a talent for comedic timing, Hilton appeared as the popular character “Hallelujah”, in two successful films, They Call Me Hallelujah (1972) and Return of Hallelujah (1973). He even replaced Gianni Garko as “Sartana” in Fistful of Lead AKA Sartana's Here, Trade Your Pistol For a Coffin (1971), in another box office success. He collaborated frequently with director Giuliano Carnimeo. His best known western however was his first, Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time (1966), in which he stared opposite Franco Nero as Nero’s drunk brother, in a highly praised performance. He also starred opposite George Martin and Edd Byrnes in another popular classic, Enzo G. Castellari’s Any Gun Can Play (1967). As successful and prolific as he was in Italian westerns, Hilton is also a highly accomplished actor in Giallo films, in which he often starred opposite Edwich Fenech and collaborated frequently with director Sergio Martino. His best known Giallo work includes The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) and the Case of the Scorpian's Tail (1971), The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972), All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and The Killer Must Kill Again (1975).
Peter Lee Lawrence
|Peter Lee Lawrence
February 21, 1944 (Lindau, Germany) - April 20, 1974 (Rome, Italy)
Born Karl Hyrenbach, the boyishly handsome German actor achieved stardom as one of the most prolific leading men of Spaghetti Westerns before succumbing to a malignant brain tumour at the still young age of 30. He first appeared uncredited as the doomed lover of Col. Mortimer’s sister in For A Few Dollars More (1965). In his very first credited role, the youthful Hyrenbach was thrust into the lead of the Spaghetti Western, Fury of Johnny Kid (1967), under the pseudonym Arthur Grant. After adopting the name Peter Lee Lawrence, he went on to star in 15 more over the next five years, including Killer Caliber 32 (1967), Days of Violence (1967), A Gun for One Hundred Graves aka A Pistol for a Hundred Coffins (1968) , Garringo (1969), Sabata the Killer (1970) and Raise Your Hands, Dead Man, You're Under Arrest (1971). His lead roles ranged from well-dressed gunmen to deranged killers. Fittingly, he also played William H. Bonney himself in The Man Who Killed Billy the Kid (1967). Outside of the Spaghetti Western genre, he also starred in the World War II Macaroni Combat film, Hell in Normandy (1968) as well as Black Beauty (1971). A citizen of France, he also appeared in photonovels under the name of Pierre Clément.
March 3, 1933 (Havana, Cuba)-
The Cuban-American who specialized in playing sly, sneering Mexican bandits and revolutionaries trained at New York’s Actor’s Studio and started out primarily in Italian art house films such as Boccaccio '70 (1962). He played opposite Lee Van Cleef in Sergio Sollima’s The Big Gundown (1966). The film was both a critical and box office success and catapulted Milian into lead roles in other Italian westerns. He appeared in 14 Spaghetti Westerns overall, playing the lead in classic films such as Sergio Corbucci’s Companeros (1970), opposite Franco Nero and Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (1967). He also starred in Sollima’s other two westerns, Run Man, Run (1968), a pseudo-sequel to The Big Gundown, and Face to Face (1967), opposite Gian Maria Volonte. He also played a memorable role in Lucio Fulci's Four of the Apocalypse (1975). Outside of westerns he also starred in Euro-Crime and Giallo films. The most notable of these was the Lucio Fulci classic Don't Torture a Duckling (1972). In more recent times, Milian returned to America to play small character roles in Hollywood films such as JFK (1991), Traffic (2000) and Amistad (1997).
November 23, 1941 (San Prospero, Italy)-
Born Francesco Sparanero, a young, blue-eyed Nero, in his breakthrough role, was cast in the lead in what would become arguably the most influential Spaghetti Western ever made. Sergio Corbucci’s immortal classic, Django (1966), was a worldwide box office phenomenon. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Jack Nicholson who tried to buy the American rights to the film, Django was never seen in the US upon its initial release. Still, the film spawned dozens of unofficial sequels, each trying to cash in on the name “Django”. The film’s violent images, and Nero’s portrayal of machine gun wielding anti-hero was instrumental in launching a successful acting career in European and occasionally, Hollywood films, playing a wide variety of characters. Nero would always stay close to the genre that made him a star however, playing the lead in over a dozen Italian-made Westerns including Keoma (1976), Companeros (1970), The Mercenary (1968), Massacre Time (1966) and Texas Adios (1967). He often played European characters in westerns to compensate for his accented English. His supporting role in Die Hard 2 (1990) is his most well known Hollywood role. Other notable films of his include Force 10 From Navarone (1978), Camelot (1967), Tristana (1970), and Querelle (1982), and more recently, Letters to Juliet (2010). Married to occasional co-star Vanessa Redgrave, Nero is still active as an actor and has stated his desire to make one last western.
October 31, 1929 (Naples, Italy)-
Born Carlo Pedersoli, he parlayed his hulking figure into a hugely successful acting career, starring in twelve Italian Westerns, six of them with long time associate Terence Hill. As a swimmer, he represented Italy in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, reaching the semi-finals in the 100m freestyle in both games. He also won an Italian championship in 1954 as a water polo player. Initially, he had a small uncredited appearance in Quo Vadis (1951). He later changed his name to Bud Spencer, using a combination of Budweiser bear and Spencer Tracy. Together with Terence Hill, he starred in a series of international smash hits, including the three films in Giuseppe Colizzi’s “Cat Stevens trilogy” as well as the famous role of “Bambino” in Enzo Barboni aka E.B. Clucher’s “Trinity” duology. Spencer’s unchanging persona of the gruff, fist-fighting brute with a heart of gold appealed to audiences so enormously that he was able to achieve on-screen success even without his long time partner in westerns such as The Five Man Army (1969), Buddy Goes West (1981) and Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die (1968). Outside of the western genre, he continued to co-star with Terence Hill in a number of successful comedies such as Watch Out, We’re Mad (1974), Crime Busters (1977) and A Friend is a Treasure (1981). A true renaissance man, he has earned a law degree, registered several patents, became a certified commercial airline and helicopter pilot, founded the Spencer Scholarship fund, owned several businesses, worked at the Italian Embassy in Brazil, and even ventured a brief foray into Italian politics.
July 21, 1930 (Rome, Italy) - June 4, 2004 (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil)
The most prolific leading man of the Spaghetti Western genre was born Antonio Luiz De Teffè in Rome of noble Brazilian extraction, the multilingual Baron was billed often as Antonio De Teffe, but was known as Anthony Steffen in nearly all of the Spaghetti Westerns he appeared in. In fact, the tall, handsome and elegant Steffen would play the lead role in a total of 27 Italian westerns. Often (and some would say unfairly) criticized for wooden acting, he nevertheless became Brazil’s answer to Clint Eastwood. Many of his westerns fared well in the box office but today, his most well known western is Django the Bastard AKA The Stranger's Gundown (1969), a film that he not only starred in, but also wrote and produced. Some source this film as an unofficial influence to Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973). Steffen also starred in No Room to Die (1969), W Django (1971) and A Man Called Joe Clifford Aka Apocalypse Joe (1970). Steffen would go on to star in numerous non-westerns, including the Giallo cult favorite The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971), but eventually retired from acting to live a jet setter’s lifestyle and settle down in Rio De Janeiro where he spent the remainder of his days.
Lee Van Cleef
|Lee Van Cleef
January 9, 1925 (Somerville NJ, USA) – December 16, 1989 (Oxnard CA, USA)
Along with Clint Eastwood, Van Cleef was one of the two most iconic American stars of Italian westerns. Initially a character actor in many Hollywood westerns such as Hign Noon (1952), it wasn’t until he ventured to Italy that Van Cleef got his big break portraying the iconic “man in black”, a sort of father figure to Eastwood’s “man with no name” in For a Few Dollars More (1965). He than portrayed one of the greatest western villains in history, “Angel Eyes”, in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). After these successes, and unlike Eastwood, Van Cleef decided to stay in Italy and forge his legacy, becoming one of the biggest box office stars in Europe, although this choice would negatively affect his popularity in America. His hawk like features, menacing scowl, and imposing physical presence, ensured Van Cleef numerous lead roles as both the mature anti-hero, and as the ruthless villain. Van Cleef’s presence in some of the best and most commercially successful Spaghetti Westerns ever made, such as the The Big Gundown (1966), Sabata (1969), and Death Rides a Horse (1967), ensured his lasting popularity. His best known Hollywood role was starring alongside Kurt Russell in the John Carpenter classic Escape from New York (1980).
Gian Maria Volonte
|Gian Maria Volonte
April 9, 1933 (Milan, Lombardy, Italy)- December 6, 1994 (Florina, Greece)
A handsome and versatile actor, Volonte will always be remembered for playing opposite Clint Eastwood in two of the films in Sergio Leone’s “Man With No Name" trilogy. The Italian actor had a knack for playing psychotic and ruthless Mexican bandit leaders as he proved in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) (billed as Johnny Wels) and For a Few Dollars More (1965), both films bringing him his greatest recognition in America. He played yet another Mexican bandit leader in Damiano Damiani’s classic Zapata Western, A Bullet for the General (1966). In his final Spaghetti Western role, he played a Boston University Professor turned bandit in another box- office smash, Sergio Sollima’s Face to Face (1967), opposite Tomas Milian. A staunch political activist, Volonte continued to act, mostly in dramatic roles, including Le Cercle Rouge (1970), Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) and For Love and Gold (1966) and Sacco & Vanzetti (1971) until his death via heart attack, winning prestigious acclaim along the way including for best actor at the 1983 Cannes film festival and the 1987 the Golden Lion award at the 1991 Venice Film Festival honoring his career and achievement in international cinema.
|Robert Woods aka Robert Wood
July 19th, 1936 (Colorado, USA)-
Among all the American actors who made a living in Italy starring in Spaghetti Westerns, none were more prolific than Robert Woods. Often billed without the ‘S’ in his last name, he starring in a total of 21 such films, playing a variety of characters. The most commercially successful of these was Seven Guns for the MacGregors (1966), which was popular enough to spawn a sequel, but without Woods. Although most of Wood’s films were only moderate successes at the Italian box office, a few of his films have gained cult followings over the years. His film Gatling Gun (1968) is a favorite of director Quentin Tarantino. Other Spaghetti Westerns include Black Jack (1968), El Puro (1969) in which he turned in a memorable performance as a drunken gunfighter, and the notorious Demofilo Fidani western, His Name Was Sam Walbash, But They Call Him Amen aka Savage Guns (1971). Outside of the Spaghetti Western genre, he modeled for Pierre Cardin, worked at an Italian dubbing studio, and sang and performed in theatre productions. He also had roles in a number of Jesus Franco films. He had a small role in Battle of the Bulge (1965), and continues to act to this day.