Italian film star Bud Spencer, the 'good giant,' dead at 86

Bud Spencer, a burly comic actor dubbed the 'good giant' for punching out bad guys on the screen in a long series of spaghetti westerns, has died in Italy. He was 86.

Spencer's roles exploited his physical strength, honed from years as champion swimmer

Burly Italian actor Carlo Pedersoli, better known by his stage name Bud Spencer, was dubbed the 'good giant' for punching bad guys in spaghetti western films. Pedersoli has died in Italy at the age of 86. (The Associated Press)

​Bud Spencer, a burly comic actor dubbed the "good giant" for punching out bad guys on the screen in a long series of spaghetti westerns, has died in Italy. He was 86.

Italian news agency ANSA quoted his son, Giuseppe Pedersoli, as saying without adding medical details that his father died peacefully Monday evening.

Born in Naples as Carlo Pedersoli, he adopted the stage name Bud Spencer — the first name inspired by a beer and the last to honour his favourite star, Spencer Tracy.

Culture minister Dario Franceschini said Spencer "knew how to entertain entire generations."

In his youth, Spencer was an athlete, becoming the first Italian to swim the 100-metre freestyle in under a minute.

Spencer's roles exploited his physical strength, especially his big frame and girth. His imposing figure earned him a walk-on part as a Praetorian guard in the 1951 film Quo Vadis?

Italian director Mario Monicelli gave him his first big role in the 1955 film Un eroe dei nostri tempi (A hero of our times). Spencer abandoned his swimming career after the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Working on a 1967 film, Dio perdona io no, (God forgives, I don't), Spencer met up with actor Mario Girotti, who would take the stage name Terence Hill and become his frequent movie partner in spaghetti westerns.

Bud Spencer (right) and Egyptian actor Omar Sharif pose at the closing ceremony of the Monaco Film Festival of Comedy in 2005. Spencer once confessed that he felt he was 'only a character' as opposed to an actor. (AP)

Spencer, who had a law degree, made his name in unmistakably lowbrow films. Some of them include Al di la' della legge (Beyond the Law) in 1968; Lo chiamavano Trinita (They Call Me Trinity) in 1970; Watch Out, We're Mad, in 1974; Io sto con gli ippopotami (I'm for the Hippotamus) in 1979; Double Trouble in 1984 and Un piede in paradise (Speaking of the Devil) in 1991.

Spencer's movies delighted much of the public, but critical acclaim eluded him, Italian state radio said Tuesday, noting he drew laughs with physical humour, especially by punching in the face the bad and arrogant characters.

After he made a film with internationally renowned Italian director Ermanno Olmi in 2003, Spencer confessed that was perhaps the first time he felt he was an actor. "I always said that I was only a character" as opposed to an actor, he said.

Spencer said sports taught him humility. "One day you wake up and someone goes better than you. And you're not anyone anymore. It's the same way in cinema." 

Bud Spencer received an award for his career achievement at the fifth Monaco Film Festival of Comedy in 2005. (The Associated Press)