Marcello Mastroianni was born in Fontana Liri, Italy in 1924, but soon his family moved to Turin and then Rome. During WW2 he was sent to a German prison camp, but he managed to escape and hide in Venice. He debuted in films as an extra in Marionette (1939), then started working for the Italian department of "Eagle Lion Films" in Rome and joined a drama club, where he was discovered by director Luchino Visconti. In 1957 Visconti gave him the starring part in his Fyodor Dostoevsky adaptation Le Notti Bianche (1957) and in 1958 he was fine as a little thief in Mario Monicelli's comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958). But his real breakthrough came in 1960, when Federico Fellini cast him as an attractive, weary-eyed journalist of the Rome jet-set in La Dolce Vita (1960); that film was the genesis of his "Latin lover" persona, which Mastroianni himself often denied by accepting parts of passive and sensitive men. He would again work with Fellini in several major films, like the exquisite 8½ (1963) (as a movie director who finds himself at a point of crisis) and the touching Ginger & Fred (1986) (as an old entertainer who appears in a TV show). He also appeared as a tired novelist with marital problems in Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte (1961), as an impotent young man in Mauro Bolognini's Bell' Antonio (1960) , as an exiled prince in John Boorman's Leo the Last (1970), as a traitor in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's Allonsanfan (1974) and as a sensitive homosexual in love with a housewife in Ettore Scola's A Special Day (1977). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, for Divorce Italian Style (1961), A Special Day (1977), and Oci ciornie (1987). During the last decade of his life he worked with directors, like Theodoros Angelopoulos, Bertrand Blier and Raúl Ruiz, who gave him three excellent parts in Three Lives and Only One Death (1996). He died of pancreatic cancer in 1996.
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