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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 8 February 1940Rome, Lazio, Italy
Date of Death 10 March 1989Rome, Lazio, Italy  (infarction)
Height 5' 10¾" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Though it can be said that he only gained fame as an actor because he bore such a heavy resemblance to Italian actor Franco Nero, Maurizio Merli was a very versatile and charismatic leading man in Italian cinema throughout the 1970's. His first appearance was in the Luchino Visconti film The Leopard (1963) as an uncredited extra. Throughout the 60's and early 70's, the young Merli kept a low profile and remained a fairly minor player in the Italian films. His major breakthrough came with director Tonino Ricci, who was to direct an unofficial sequel to Lucio Fulci's White Fang (1973) without the benefit of its star, Franco Nero. Ricci realized that casting Merli in the lead would fool the viewing audience into thinking they were seeing Nero and hence an authentic White Fang adventure. The subsequent film Zanna bianca alla riscossa (1974) worked well enough for Marino Girolami and Fabrizio De Angelis to cast Merli as the lead in the crime drama Violent City (1975) a year later. Much like before, Merli was cast because the film vaguely resembled the Franco Nero Film La polizia incrimina la legge assolve (1973) ("High Crime"). Violent City (1975) turned out to be a huge success both in Italy and abroad and Merli found himself inexplicably catapulted to international stardom. Very similar to how Terence Hill found his niche in comedies after being discovered out of the crowd of Nero stand-ins, Maurizio Merli established himself as the leading man in the Italian crime film genre of the period. Over the brief span from 1975-1979, Merli starred in no less than a dozen crime films from the likes of noted Italian directors Umberto Lenzi, Stelvio Massi, and Fernando Di Leo including such classics as Violent Naples (1976), Italia a mano armata (1976), and _Da Corleone a Brooklyn (1978)_. Merli also followed Nero's footsteps once again in the Keoma-inspired A Man Called Blade (1977). Merli's brief busy period saw him hopelessly typecast in the same role as the hard-nosed detective in practically every film he starred in. Merli was said to get so into these roles that he would frequently go overboard during the fight scenes and hurt the stuntmen. In both _Roma a mano armata (1976)_ and Il cinico, l'infame, il violento (1977), Merli was cast opposite Cuban actor Tomas Milian, with whom he did not get along in real life. The tension between the two made for some very good on-screen chemistry for the few scenes they had together. Merli's "tough cop" performances ranged from so-so to nearly brilliant at times with him angrily shaking his fists and grinding his teeth when the script would rarely call for such things. However, it was this type-casting which led to the demise of his career when Italian filmmakers began to focus less on crime films and more on fantastic films in the early 80's such as horror, action, and post apocalyptic films in which Merli simply had no place. He had a brief role in Giorgio Bontempi's spy thriller Spy Connection (1983) but by then his level of work was but a fraction of what it once was. A devout health-nut in his later years, Merli collapsed after overexerting himself in a tennis match and died of Myocardial Infarction at the age of 49.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Mike A. Martinez <aylmer666@juno.com>

Trivia (1)

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