Franco Nero, 78, first made his name as the titular Django in Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western and has appeared in more than 230 films. Now starring in Robert Port’s new military WWII thriller, Recon, this is Nero’s latest foray into war drama, previously starring in Force 10 from Navarone, The Battle of Neretva and The Fifth Day of Peace.
Famously falling in love with his Camelot co-star Vanessa Redgrave in 1966, the couple have a son, Carlo Nero, now 51. Separating shortly after Carlo’s birth, the couple reunited many years later, finally marrying on December 31 2006. When he called Senior Planet from Rome, Nero was upbeat about his newest project.
SP: What drew you to the role of Angelo in Recon?
Nero: I liked how the writer [Richard Bausch] told the story of his father’s real experience in Italy during WWII. Angelo is a poor man trying to survive during the madness of the war. Guiding these four young American soldiers to safety, while trying to avoid the Germans, is not easy because they don’t trust him.
SP: You were born in 1941 during wartime. What memories did your parents share of WWII?
Nero: We lived with the farmers in the countryside outside Parma where my father was a Carabinieri, a police man. They had many stories but my mother’s was the best. I would cry ever time she told me how her father – who lived 700 miles south in Puglia – missed her so much that he walked across the country just to see her; walking at night and hiding from the Germans during the day. It’s an incredible story.
SP: How are you coping with the pandemic?
Nero: The Covid situation in Italy is not very good like in America. Every day the numbers are increasing and everything is closed again. I was supposed to start directing and starring in a movie in two weeks time but they stopped the production so it’s very difficult.
SP: At least you and Vanessa have each other during these tough times?
Nero: Not even that! I am in Rome and Vanessa is in the British countryside staying with our daughter Joely [Richardson]. But she’s fine and has managed to do two films. She tells me she’s going to do two more – one in England and one in Spain although I don’t know if that’s possible.
SP: Is it hard to be separated at this time?
Nero: Yes but we speak almost every day on the phone but you cannot do anything else at the moment. Vanessa wanted to come visit but the doctor said it was too dangerous for her to fly.
SP: Do you FaceTime?
Nero: No, both of us are terrible in that. I’ve never put a finger on a computer myself and she doesn’t have What’s App. We are both a mess!
“It feels good to give back to youth.”
SP: You remain in great shape. What’s your secret?
Nero: That’s easy. The first thing in my life is food, good food, not junk. I’ve always been an athlete, playing football all my life and now I just play tennis and go fishing. My life is always in the open air. I just feel young physically. When I was filming Recon in Canada, they had a double for me but they never used him for once. I did everything myself, walking in the snow and up the mountains.
SP: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?
Nero: I’ve been working 55 years with a village of orphans in Rome. Working with these young people at the mission keeps me young and full of life and gives me purpose. It feels good to give back to youth.
Photo credit courtesy of Brainstorm Media.