Gian Maria Volontè

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Gian Maria Volontè
Gian Maria Volontè.jpg
Gian Maria Volontè in his later years
Born (1933-04-09)9 April 1933
Milan, Italy
Died 6 December 1994(1994-12-06) (aged 61)
Florina, Greece
Other names Johnny Wells
Occupation Actor
Years active 1957–1993
Spouse(s) Armenia Balducci
Partner(s) Carla Gravina
Angelica Ippolito (1977-his death)
Children Mauriel Morejon

Gian Maria Volontè (9 April 1933 – 6 December 1994) was an Italian actor. He is perhaps most famous outside of Italy for his roles as the main villain in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (credited in the USA as "Johnny Wels") and For a Few Dollars More. In Italy, he was more notable for his roles in high-profile social dramas depicting the political and social stirrings of Italian and European society in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early life

Volontè was born in Milan, and graduated in Rome in 1957. He had a brief career as a television and theatre (Shakespeare, Goldoni) actor, before concentrating on his film career.[citation needed]


Volontè made his debut in 1960 in Sotto dieci bandiere, directed by Duilio Coletti. Just four years later, he played "Ramón Rojo" in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), and "El Indio" in For a Few Dollars More (1965), both for cash reasons as he did not consider either role seriously. Both films were directed by the then-unknown Sergio Leone, and Volontè's roles in them would bring him his greatest recognition from American audiences. He played Carlo Levi in Cristo si é fermato a Eboli (1979), which was based on Levi's autobiographical account of his years in internal-exile in Italy in the 1930s. The name in English of the account (and the name of the film based on this account) is Christ Stopped at Eboli. Volontè played the memorable role of the Bandito-turned-guerrilla, El Chucho, in A Bullet for the General (1966).[citation needed]

Volontè's performances as memorable but neurotic characters, or as a gifted leader of brigands or revolutionaries, together with the unexpected, worldwide success of the films, gave him international fame. Volontè had already played comedies, including A cavallo della tigre (1961), by Luigi Comencini, and confirmed his versatility in L'armata Brancaleone (1966). However, he found his main dimension in dramatic roles for Banditi a Milano (1968), by Carlo Lizzani, Sbatti il mostro in prima pagina (1972) by Marco Bellocchio, La Classe operaia va in paradiso (1972) by his friend Elio Petri and Il sospetto (1975) by Francesco Maselli.

Hommage to Gian Maria Volontè (seen in his role as Carlo Levi in Christ Stopped at Eboli) by Reginald Gray

In 1968, Volontè won a Silver Ribbon as best actor for A ciascuno il suo, also directed by Elio Petri. Volonté received the same award for two other performances: Petri's Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (1971, winner of an Academy Award as best foreign film), considered by many to be his finest; and in The Abyss (1989).

In 1983 he won the award for Best Actor at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival for La Mort de Mario Ricci. Four years later, at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival, he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor for Il caso Moro.[1] 1988 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, remarkable play as a Renaissance physician in The Abyss by André Delvaux from Marguerite Yourcenar's famous novel. In 1990, Volontè was named Best European Actor for Porte aperte. In 1991, at the Venice Film Festival, he won a Golden Lion for his career as a whole. Volontè played numerous roles outside Italy.[citation needed]

Personal life

Volontè was a strong political activist and known for his left-leaning views. Companion of Italian actress Carla Gravina for almost 10 years, they met when they played Romeo and Juliet in the theatre in 1960. The two had a daughter Giovanna, born in the early 1960s. Actress it was his companion from 1977 until his death in 1994.


Volontè died from a heart attack in 1994 at Florina, Greece during the filming of Ulysses' Gaze, directed by Theo Angelopoulos. His role in the film was recast to Erland Josephson. Volontè's resting place is a small cemetery on the Sardinian island of Isola della Maddalena.

Selected filmography

Gian Maria Volontè as Police Inspector in Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion


  1. "Berlinale: 1987 Prize Winners". Retrieved 27 February 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links