Bud Spencer († June 27, 2016 in Rome) was an Italian film and television actor, swimmer and water polo player, musician and composer, politician and inventor, and founder of the airline Mistral Air.
Pedersoli was the first Italian to swim the 100-meter freestyle in under a minute, won Italian swimming championships in various disciplines for ten consecutive years, and was a member of the Italian national water polo team. In 1952 and 1956 he participated in the Olympic Games in Helsinki and Melbourne, respectively.
He became best known as Bud Spencer alongside Terence Hill. The comedic duo appeared in numerous adventure and western comedies with extensive fight scenes and in some more serious Italo westerns. Pedersoli usually played the stubborn, phlegmatic, but good-hearted character who put his opponents out of action with a powerful punch.
Youth and education
Carlo Pedersoli was born in Naples in 1929, the son of industrialist Alessandro Pedersoli. In 1937, he began swimming at a local swim club. In 1940, the family moved to Rome where, after skipping two grades of school, Pedersoli began studying chemistry at a Roman university in 1946. During World War II, he narrowly escaped death in an air raid on San Lorenzo. However, because his family moved to South America a year later, he had to abandon his studies. In South America, he worked both as an assembly line worker in Rio de Janeiro, as a librarian in Buenos Aires, and as a secretary at the Italian Embassy in Montevideo. In 1948, the 19-year-old returned to Italy and enrolled as a law student.He graduated from law school in 1957 after six semesters. (In Italy, one receives the academic degree of dottore upon successful completion of university studies; sometimes this is mistakenly rendered as a doctorate). In 2011, Spencer stated that he had wanted to become a doctor or lawyer, but that he never got around to it because of his many other activities.
Swimming career and first film roles
Even while studying law, his passion for swimming remained and he was a member of the Italian national water polo team. He became Italian champion in the 100-meter freestyle, which he swam under one minute on September 19, 1950, the first Italian to do so. He won the Italian championship ten years in a row from 1947 to 1957: three years in breaststroke, seven years in freestyle.
In 1950, Pedersoli had his first (extra) role as a praetorian in Emperor Nero”s Guard in the monumental film Quo Vadis. Other small roles in Italian productions followed: Siluri umani (1954, German title: Torpedomänner angreifen), Un Eroe dei nostri tempi (1955, German title: Ein Held unserer Tage), Il Cocco di mamma (1957, German title: In einem anderen Land).
In 1951 Pedersoli participated in the Mediterranean Games and won the silver medal in the 100 m freestyle with 59.7 s. In 1952 he participated in the Olympic Games in Helsinki and finished fifth in the preliminary heat of the 100 m freestyle with 58.9 s in the swimming competitions. He did not reach the final with the Italian 4×200-meter freestyle relay team. He was invited by Yale University because of his athletic successes with other talented athletes and spent a few months in the United States. In the 1955 Mediterranean Games he won a gold medal with the Italian national water polo team. In 1956 he participated in the Olympic Games in Melbourne, finishing 11th in the 100-meter freestyle. In 1957, at the age of 28, he ended his swimming career and returned to South America. He said himself at the time, “Because if fame comes too quickly, it easily goes to your head. With me, it was about to.” He was also very critical of the fact that only victory counted. He also commented on other downsides: “A champion, especially a professional soccer player,” embodies the “figure of a demigod who can get away with anything” and who is hardly interested in the question of whether he is doped. He emphasized that he had never used any aids himself.
Starting a family and working in the music industry
In his biography, he described that he saw a danger in his high profile in Italy, because an ex-champion, while always finding benevolent people, risked becoming someone who lived only on memories. This was an important reason why he moved to South America.
For nine months he worked as a foreman in the motor pool building the Panamericana, then for Alfa Romeo in Caracas. He kept up his relationship through correspondence. In 1960 Pedersoli returned to Rome and married Maria Amato, six years his junior, daughter of Giuseppe Amato, whom he had known for 15 years. In 1961 their son Giuseppe Pedersoli was born, followed a year later by daughter Christiana. In 1972 followed his second daughter Diamante.
In 1959, Pedersoli appeared in a small role in the monumental film Hannibal, which also featured his later film partner Terence Hill. Between 1960 and 1964 Pedersoli worked mainly as a composer for the Italian record company RCA. He composed Neapolitan songs and songs for pop singers like Rita Pavone. He also toured various nightclubs with self-composed songs, accompanying himself on the guitar. In 1964 Pedersoli canceled his contract with RCA, moreover his father-in-law Giuseppe Amato, one of the greatest film producers in Italy (The Sweet Life, 1960 by Federico Fellini) died.
In 1965, Pedersoli founded his own production company, which produced animal documentaries for Italian RAI television.
Bud Spencer as pseudonym
In 1967, Pedersoli received a film offer from the director and acquaintance of his wife Giuseppe Colizzi for the Italian western God Forgives… Django Never! (original title: Dio perdona … io no! – literal translation: “God forgives … I don”t!”). This film was the beginning of the comedy duo Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, who stepped in as a replacement for the originally planned Peter Martell, who had broken his foot the night before filming began. God Forgives … Django Never! is still a “serious” western. It was remade after the success of their first Western comedies, which were dubbed with more light-hearted humor and renamed Zwei vom Affen gebissen (Two Bitten by a Monkey). Since the film was too brutal in parts, this version was shortened by about 13 minutes and received an FSK-16 release. In this way, the film was brought to the cinema once again. The follow-up western Hill of Bloody Boots was also “reworked” according to this principle and re-released as Zwei hau”n auf den Putz.
Both actors adopted English stage names, as these were easier to market at the time and Pedersoli did not want to ridicule his well-known name. His colleague Mario Girotti, whom he had known for many years before their first filming together at a swimming club in Rome, chose “Terence Hill” from a list. Pedersoli told about his own stage name: “I didn”t have a list! I had a bottle of Budweiser beer – my favorite – in front of me. And Spencer Tracy was always my favorite actor, so my choice was easy!”
Career peak: 1970s and 1980s
The 1970s turned out to be a triumphant period for the successful European film team. The breakthrough came with The Devil”s Right Hand and the Devil”s Left Hand (original title: Lo chiamavano Trinità, 1970) and especially with the sequel Four Fists for a Hallelujah (… continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità, 1971, in the GDR with the title Der Kleine und der müde Joe). With around 12 million viewers, this “beating Western” is one of the most successful films ever shown in German cinemas.
The new genre of the “punch-up comedy” was born. The comedies with loose sayings, which in the German dubbing are largely due to the dialogue writer Rainer Brandt, and the funny staged brawls made the duo world famous. Frequently used were the two-handed double back whistle and the vertical blow with a fist on the head (“steam hammer”), with which Bud Spencer knocked down his opponents. During the filming of the beating scenes, real hits occasionally occurred due to Spencer”s short-sightedness. The duo was compared to Laurel and Hardy and Spencer himself called Charlie Chaplin an important role model.
In addition, food in the form of often onomatopoeic orgies of gluttony played a central role in many of Spencer”s films. Die Zeit attested to his childlike “delight in disregarding all etiquette and mannerliness.
Bud Spencer made a total of nine films with Terence Hill in the 1970s. Without Terence Hill, he appeared in thirteen films, including the “Flatfoot” series, made with his own idea. For some of his films such as They Called Him Mosquito (Lo chiamavano Bulldozer, 1978) and The Crocodile and His Hippo (Io sto con gli ippopotami, 1979), Bud Spencer wrote music tracks. In 1979, Bud Spencer received the Cinema Jupiter Award as Germany”s most popular star.
The popularity of the duo led to the production of several films in the mid-1970s that sought to repeat the pattern of success with a different cast. These films were cast with similar-looking actors, such as Paul L. Smith as the Bud Spencer equivalent in Italian productions. German titles also followed the model, for example in 1975”s Zwei irre Typen mit ihrem tollen Brummi.
Meanwhile, Pedersoli discovered his passion for flying. He earned his helicopter private pilot”s license in 1975 and his Brevetto e licenza di pilota civile 2° grado (Turismo internazionale) in 1977, acquiring flight licenses for Switzerland and the United States. In 1981 he founded the airline Mistral Air, which he later sold.
In the 1980s Bud Spencer made other films, including Banana Joe (1982), for which he also wrote the screenplay. He also appeared again in front of the camera with Terence Hill, as in Two Aces Trump (Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro, 1981), Two Bears Strong (Nati con la camicia, 1983), Four Fists Against Rio (Double Trouble, 1984) and The Miami Cops (Miami Supercops, 1985). However, the audience figures for the films, which were shot according to the same successful formula, declined, so Spencer and Hill stopped working together in 1985. In 1988, Bud Spencer was seen for the first time in a television series: Jack Clementi – Call is Enough… (he also collaborated on the script for this one.
Age work: Since the 1990s
In the 1990s Bud Spencer was seen on television with the series Two Super Guys in Miami (Extralarge, 1990-1993), successful in Italy, alongside Philip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice and later Michael Winslow from Police Academy. The script for this was written by his son Giuseppe. For the last film together with Terence Hill, he was in front of the camera in 1994, after a nine-year break, for The Troublemakers (Botte di Natale). In Germany, however, only about 100,000 viewers saw the film. Bud Spencer and Philip Michael Thomas also made the six-part series Two Angels with Four Fists.
Since then, he mainly took on smaller and serious roles that no longer had anything to do with the “beating genre” and was less in the public eye. In 2005 followed a film role in the TV production Padre Speranza – With God”s Blessing (Padre Speranza).
In April 2005, Pedersoli ran in the Italian regional elections for a government office in Lazio, the central region around Rome. Like many other Forza Italia candidates, he was not elected due to the unexpectedly poor performance of Silvio Berlusconi”s party.
In early 2006, Terence Hill mentioned wanting to make another film with his long-term partner Bud Spencer. Two years later, Pedersoli confirmed plans to do so in an exclusive interview with the Italian TV station Canale 5. The new film was to be a variant of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. “The basic idea is that Terence Hill and I are in prison as Jekyll and Hyde. A doctor invents a pill for good and one for bad. But the doctor loses the pills and our characters get mixed up …” In April 2011, however, Spencer denied that there would be another film with Terence Hill: “Never again. We”re moving like old men.”
After a five-year break from filming, Bud Spencer returned to the movie business in 2007 on his 78th birthday. In the German agent parody Mord ist mein Geschäft, Liebling, he took on a role alongside Nora Tschirner, Rick Kavanian and Christian Tramitz. The feature film was shot in Berlin and in Italy. In an interview at the film premiere in Munich, he stated that although he had earned a lot of money with his films in the 1970s and 1980s, there was nothing left of it due to private problems.
In 2010, work began on the no-budget production They Called Him Spencer, a documentary fan project about the man Carlo Perdersoli and his cinematic alter ego. The film, in which Bud Spencer made his last screen appearance, premiered at the Munich Film Festival on June 23, 2017. Numerous long-time cinema companions of the star participated in the production.
In May 2010, the Italian TV channel Canale 5 launched the TV series I delitti del cuoco, in which Bud Spencer plays a retired policeman who opens a restaurant on the island of Ischia. The series was inspired by Nero Wolfe, a well-known detective character by Rex Stout.
Spencer did not see himself as a professional actor, but as a performer whose type was well received by the audience. Since he had no acting ambitions, there was no competition with the trained actor Terence Hill.
In mid-April 2011, Bud Spencer”s autobiography Bud Spencer. My Life, My Films in German. Within a few days, the biography became a bestseller and reached No. 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list. Due to its great success, a second part was announced, which appeared in March 2012 and, like the first volume, was promoted with a German reading tour. The book, entitled In achtig Jahren um die Welt (Around the World in Eighty Years), contains a separate chapter in which Spencer answers questions that fans were able to ask in advance on the Internet.
From August 19 to 31, 2011, the first German Bud Spencer retrospective took place at Berlin”s Babylon cinema. As part of the event series, numerous Spencer films were shown on the big screen. Bud Spencer was personally present at the opening. The series was curated by German film publicist Friedemann Beyer.
On March 17, 2012, the approximately 50-minute documentary Bud”s Best – The World of Bud Spencer was first broadcast on the German-French cultural channel Arte as part of the “Kings of the B-Movies” series. The film by Friedemann Beyer and Irene Höfer portrays Spencer”s life and work and looks at his status as a pop cultural icon. The premiere of the film took place on March 6, 2012 at Berlin”s Babylon cinema in the presence of the star.
After the publication of two other books – the philosophical cookbook I eat, therefore I am: Mangio ergo sum – My Philosophy of Eating (2014) and the memoir What I Still Wanted to Tell You (2016) – the album Futtetenne was released on CD and LP in spring 2016, on which Spencer interpreted ten Italian songs as a singer, some of which he wrote himself. His official Facebook channel (called Facebud by him), which had about 1.5 million followers at the time of his death, also gained great popularity.
Bud Spencer died on June 27, 2016 at the age of 86 in a hospital in Rome. According to his son, he died peacefully surrounded by his family and said goodbye with the word “thank you”. In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Terence Hill, ten years younger, stated that he had “lost his best friend” and was “devastated”. Bud Spencer was buried at the Cimitero Comunale Monumentale al Campo Verano in Rome.
Work as an inventor
Pedersoli applied for several patents as an inventor, but they lapsed due to non-payment of fees: in 1981 he invented a hunting rifle with three barrels and in 1990 a special door lock.
Bud Spencer”s German voice actor was mostly Wolfgang Hess, who lent him his voice in over 25 films as well as in two series. Especially in the films that were edited under the dubbing direction of Rainer Brandt, Spencer was also spoken by Arnold Marquis and Martin Hirthe. Marquis made ten appearances, Hirthe seven.
Other voice actors included Alexander Welbat, Heinz Theo Branding, Edgar Ott, Hans Dieter Zeidler, Engelbert von Nordhausen and Manfred Grote, who all spoke him only once each. Benno Hoffmann, who was initially to be established as Spencer”s regular voice actor, had to be replaced after only two films due to illness. This led to the first assignment for Wolfgang Hess. In the DEFA dubbing of Hügel der blutigen Stiefel, Spencer was spoken by Ulrich Voß. In the series Jack Clementi – Anruf genügt… Karl-Heinz Krolzyk dubbed Bud Spencer.
Numerous films with Bud Spencer were dubbed several times. After Spencer”s breakthrough in the 1970s and 1980s, the early westerns in particular were given a second dubbed version, which was no longer based on the more serious original text, but was enriched with flippant dubbing in the style of the later films. The films were also often shortened, for example to remove violent scenes. These versions with Schnodder dubbing were often produced under the direction of Karlheinz Brunnemann, Rainer Brandt, Heinz Petruo and Arne Elsholtz at Deutsche Synchron or Brandtfilm in Berlin. Some were also created by MGS-Synchron GmbH in Düsseldorf. These works in particular were criticized for their flat jokes, which did not measure up to the versions from Berlin.
There are even three German versions each of Hill of Bloody Boots and They Sell Death. While in the original Banana Joe Spencer merely throws a drunken guest out, in the German the drunk asks the question, “Do you actually know who I am?” To which Spencer replies, “Yes, yes, Maya the Bee!” In this scene, the drunk was dubbed by Eberhard Storeck, who also dubbed the character Willi in Maya the Bee.
Bud Spencer became the subject of controversy in 2011 over the naming of a new road tunnel on federal highway 29 in Schwäbisch Gmünd. Under the name “Names for the Gmünd Tunnel”, the city held a public procedure on its website until July 1, 2011 for the submission of name suggestions for the Schwäbisch Gmünd tunnel. Voting was held from 82 pre-selected name suggestions until July 25. Through the participation of thousands of members of a Facebook group, by far the most votes went to the Bud Spencer Tunnel proposal. Spencer said he was “deeply honored” by the approval. However, the city council, chaired by Mayor Richard Arnold, did not consider the voting result binding and the proposal to name the structure after Spencer was rejected.
Alternatively, the Schwäbisch Gmünd municipal council decided to rename the municipal open-air swimming pool in the Schießtal as the Bud Spencer Pool, as Carlo Pedersoli had taken part in a swimming competition held there between Germany and Italy on July 7 and 8, 1951 and won in the 100 m crawl (59.8 seconds). The renaming of the outdoor swimming pool took place on December 2, 2011 and was personally performed by Bud Spencer.
The Sunny Bastards record label released the tribute album A Street Tribute to Bud Spencer & Terence Hill. The album features various bands, mainly from the punk and Oi! genres, playing songs about the two or re-scoring songs from the various soundtracks.
In 2011, the Italian rock band Controtempo released the song Come Bud Spencer e Terence Hill. In the accompanying music video, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer make a guest appearance.
In 2016, the city of Budapest named a park after Bud Spencer.On November 11, 2017, a statue of Bud Spencer was unveiled in Corvin sétány, the Corvin Promenade in the 8th district, Józsefváros, of Budapest in the presence of his daughter Cristina Pedersoli and district mayor Máté Kocsis. The bronze cast by artist Szandra Tasnadi is 2.40 meters high and weighs 500 kilograms. Films with him were frequently shown in Hungary even during the communist period and are still very popular today.
Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg honors Bud Spencer with a commemorative plaque depicting the city of Rome.
Since 2001, Bud Spencer and Terence Hill fan meetings have been held in Germany at changing locations. In 2018, 4000 visitors came to this festival.
In December 2017, the computer game Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans was released, in which you fight your way through various scenarios of well-known movies as Spencer and Hill.
In his last book he told about the strict fasting that Terence underwent before the food scenes to make the gorging look more real. He never did that himself; he always had enough appetite as it was.
Friendships played an important role in Spencer”s life. For the film Two Heavenly Dogs on the Road to Hell, Colizzi could pay them little, yet he and Terence agreed to do it because they owed him “just too much on a professional and human level.” This was not always rewarded. Thus, in his biography, he mentions a former friend who told him about the loss of his girlfriend, financial difficulties and suicidal thoughts. As a result, he supported him with 30,000 lire a month, whereupon this “friend” demanded an increase after some time. When he didn”t get it, he didn”t want to see him anymore.