July 7, 1969
ROME (UPI) – Carlo Pedersoli looks like the kind of man who could swing through the trees in a loin cloth playing Tarzan.
In fact, Italians are always comparing him with Johnny Weissmuller, the most famous screen Tarzan of them all. It does not please Pedersoli.
“Si, Weissmuller and me, we look alike,” the big Italian actor said. With his limited English vocabulary, he also sounds like Weissmuller’s Tarzan on screen.
Both got started the same way – as champion swimmers – and both quickly were typecast as hulking men of action more at east with animals than their fellow man.
Pedersoli being the sort of name that does not have that household word ring, the 39-year-old actor long ago changed it to Bud Spencer.
As Spencer, he has starred in six spaghetti westerns which raked in lots of lira, including “God Forgives, I Don’t!” a film even hardboiled Italian western fans considered to brutal for the bambinos.
In a genre where thuds and groans drown out the dialogue, Spencer starts with a star’s equipment – six feet of bone-hard muscle, 240 pounds, and a face that looks like he was born with a sun squint.
Spencer has come a long way in the three years since has wife, the daughter of the man who produced the film “La Dolce Wita,” suggested her husband take up acting.
A Law Clerk
Until he began shooting and punching, Spencer did less strenuous chores in a variety of posts ranging from public relations to law office clerk.
Even while working, he preferred swimming. He also was better at it.
Spencer represented Italy in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic games and for 11 years was the country’s 100 meter freestyle champion.
Impressed by Yale University swimming coach Bob Kipputh, the Naples-born Spencer decided to go to New Haven on a three-month student exchange program.
He learned a lot about swimming, but not much English. His roommate was Japanese – “and he talked worse English than me.”
Between swim meetings and on – again, off again studies, Spencer travelled. At one point, he stopped long enough in Brazil and Argentina to win their national 100 meter swimming titles.
Then after shifting his interests to water polo - “I was you know, too fatty.” – Spencer drifted into working as an extra in the dozens of Italian westerns which were the rage a few years ago.
He also wrote the lyrics to composer Alex North’s music for the film, “Cleopatra,” and wrote a novel which, he says, nobody bought or read.
His wife, Maria, the daughter of producer Giuseppe Amato, was watching some athletic types rehearse a screen brawl when it occurred to her Spencer could be a western heavy, and director Giuseppe Colizzi agreed.
But now Spencer shows signs of chaffing at all the gunplay, knife-hurling and fisticuffs.
“I wish to change my image,” he said. “When I finish this new film, I wish to do comedy.”
Meanwhile, he’s winding up “The Five Man Army,” another western in which he is cut, clubbed and eventually killed. He play a hulking not-too-bright Mexican named Mesito who wants a piece of the action when five outlaws try to rob a gold train.
“Such is easy for me,” he said. “But mamma mia, they want me to speak Spanish now.”