How many of you remember this gentle giant so popular in 70s and 80s action movies? His iconic black beard, his quiet attitude, his solid determined voice, not to mention the action-comedy films with his friend and side-kick Terence Hill.
Bud Spencer, the Italian actor and film-maker whose real name was actually Carlo Pedersoli, starred in more than 20 films. What most people don’t know is that he was also a professional swimmer, a water polo player, a certified commercial and airline pilot, as well as having a law degree and supporting several charities.
Although Bud Spencer was at the highlight of his acting career well before my time, his films were still an important part of my childhood. I watched and re-watched re-runs of his spaghetti westerns on Italian T.V, of which I remember God Forgives… I Don’t (1967) and They Call Me Trinity (1970) very well.
Photo above: Terence Hill and Bud Spencer
My favourites, however, were those fantastically comic action films with Terence Hill, where Bud would often play the irritable quick-tempered tough guy with a hidden heart of gold, offset by Hill’s more light-hearted smiling banter. My absolute favourite will always be Watch Out, We’re Mad! (1974), better known as Altrimenti ci Arrabbiamo in Italian. This particular film piqued my interest as a child for various reasons – the setting in a luna park, the famous beer and sausages contest (which featured again and again in many of Bud’s comedies), the funny ‘baddies’, not to mention Bud’s absurdly amusing rehearsal with a professional opera chorus.
There were many other of Bud’s good-humoured knee-slapping films which I’ll never forget, and whose re-runs continue to colour Italian T.V even today. Foremost of these are Double Trouble (1984), where Bud also plays his identical look-alike (but totally pampered and cowardly) twin, and Miami Supercops (1985).
Bud Spencer also worked on a number of films on his own, without the collaboration of Terence Hill. Notable films include They Called Him Bulldozer (1978), Banana Joe (1982) and Bomber (1982). All of them comedy films, but ones which also reveal the greed and social climbing present in certain strata of society, as well as the inherent kindness and benevolence which characterise those who, perhaps, give a bad impression because of their tough exterior.
Photo above: Bud Spencer
Bud Spencer wrote huge sections, if not all, of many of the screenplays in which he starred. His stage name was inspired in part by his favourite beer, Budweiser, and in part by the well-loved actor, Spencer Tracy.
On the 27th June 2016, Bud Spencer died in Rome, at 86 years of age. He leaves behind him a beloved wife, three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His son, Giuseppe Pedersoli, reports that he died peacefully at home. His last words were ‘thank you’.