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Italian actor Bud Spencer dead at 86

The film star - known for his hulking size - had played in spaghetti westerns and farcical comedies over the decades. Tributes have been pouring in from around the world.

The Naples-born actor and filmmaker died Monday in a Rome hospital, his family reported.

"My father died peacefully at 18:15 and did not suffer from pain, he had all of us next to him and his last words were 'Thank you'," his son, film producer Giuseppe Pedersoli, said in a short statement.

Born Carlo Pedersoli in the southern Italian city of Naples, he moved at age 11 with his family to Rome, where he became an accomplished athlete.

A star swimmer in his early days

After World War II, the family moved again, this time to Brazil, where the young man quit his studies and started taking odd jobs. He returned to Rome, where he went back to school and took up competitive swimming; in 1950, he became the first Italian to swim the 100-meter freestyle in under a minute.

After the 1960 Olympics in Rome, he abandoned his swimming career and went on to marry the daughter of a film producer and had three children.

In 1967, at the age of 38, he starred in his first western, "God forgives... I don't!" It was at this point he changed his name to

Bud Spencer,

a tribute to his favorite US beer brand "Budweiser" and the American actor Spencer Tracy.

Starring opposite fellow Italian actor Terence Hill (Mario Girotti), Spencer rose to acclaim in the 1970

spaghetti western

comedy "They call me Trinity."

He became internationally known for playing a friendly giant of a cowboy, a role he would reprise in scores of films.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini hailed Spencer as "a great actor of our cinema industry, who over the course of his long career entertained whole generations."

Later in life, Spencer entered Italian politics. He is reputed to have said: "In my life, I've done everything. There are only three things I haven't been - a ballet dancer, a jockey and a politician. Given that the first two jobs are out of the question, I'll throw myself into politics."

But his 2005 bid in Rome's regional elections on the list of

then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi

was unsuccessful.

He had a large fan base around the world, especially in South America and Germany, where his films were especially popular.

jar/tj (AFP, Reuters)

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