Bud Spencer, Italian spaghetti westerns star, dead at 86

Bud Spencer dies at the age of 86
Bud Spencer dies at the age of 86

ROME — Burly Italian actor Bud Spencer, who starred in more than 70 genre movies, including many widely exported Spaghetti Westerns such as "Trinity is Still My Name," one of Italy's all-time top grossing titles, has died. He was 86.

Spencer, whose real name was Carlo Pedersoli, passed away "peacefully" at his home in Rome on Monday, his son Giuseppe Perdersoli said in a media statement which did not disclose the exact cause of death.

In the late 1960's, just as his acting career was starting to take off, Pedersoli had changed his name to Bud Spencer as a homage to Budweiser beer and Spencer Tracy. He also reportedly thought it was ironic to call himself Bud despite his Herculean physique which made him known to his fans as "the big friendly giant" of the screen.

Born in Naples in 1929, Spencer first gained a measure of fame as an athlete, becoming the first Italian to swim the 100-meter freestyle in less one minute and competing on Italy's national Olympic team in 1952 and 1956.

See photos of Bud Spencer throughout his career:

He then starting taking on small parts such as playing the Praetorian Guard in MGM epic "Quo Vadis," shot in Rome's Cinecittà Studios, and subsequently appeared in strictly local potboilers.

After changing his name, Spencer teamed up in 1967 with fellow Italian Terence Hill, whose real name is Mario Girotti, and that was the game changer in both of their careers. They starred in Giuseppe Colizzi-directed Western "God Forgives...I Don't," which was followed in 1968 by "Ace High," which also starred Eli Wallach; "They Call Me Trinity" in 1970, which became Italy's top grossing title, a record they beat the following year with "Trinity is Still My Name," which was directed by Enzo Barboni.

These Spaghetti Westerns made for the international market gained legions of fans abroad for the duo, especially in Germany.

"He was an actor whom Italian cinema needs to thank because he took Italian movies around the world," Fox Italy president Osvaldo De Santis told Sky.

All told Spencer and Hill made 18 movies together which also included "The Knock Out Cop" in 1973, "Crime Busters" in 1977, and "Double Trouble" in 1984.

During the 1980s and 90's he had a very active solo career in Italian TV, including series the "Big Man," "Detective Extralarge," and in 2010 the "I Delitti del Cuoco," in which he played a retired cop who opens a restaurant on the Island of Ischia but continues to bust crimes.

In 2003 Spencer appeared in his first bona-fide dramatic role in revered Italian auteur Ermanno Olmi's "Singing Behind Screens," in which he plays an old captain who narrates the fable-like film from the deck of a large Chinese junk ship.

In 2005 Spencer briefly entered politics after then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi asked him to run as a regional councilor but he was not elected.

He is survived by his wife Maria Amato and three children, Giuseppe, Christine, and Diamante.