Born in Milan in 1933, Gian Maria Volontè studied in Rome at the National Dramatic Arts Academy, where he obtained his degree in 1957. He began working in theatre and television, where he was soon noticed as one of the most promising actors of his generation. After several supporting appearances in film, he reached notoriety with the character of Ramón Rojo in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964). This success was doubled in Leone's next film, For a Few Dollars More (1965). The following ten years would be the most intense of Volontè career. L'armata Brancaleone (1966) (directed by Mario Monicelli) was the most successful Italian movie of the year, We Still Kill the Old Way (1967) (directed by Elio Petri) won the Grand Prix du Scenario at the Cannes Film Festival, and Volontè won his first Nastro d'Argento (Silver Ribbon - the most presitgious acting award in Italy) in 1970 for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) (also directed by Petri), making him an international star. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and two Italian Golden Globes, including one for his performance. In 1972, he starred in two Italian movies as the protagonist: Petri's Lulu the Tool (1971) and Francesco Rosi's The Mattei Affair (1972), both of which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, where he also won a Special Mention. In his life, Volontè won a huge number of other prizes and honours, becoming one of the most celebrated Italian actors of the seventies, and challenging Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni as the most popular Italian actor. He died in Greece in 1994.
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