Francesco “Nino” Castelnuovo, the Italian actor who starred in the Palme D’Or winner “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and the Best Picture Oscar winner “The English Patient,” died on Monday after a long battle with illness, his family announced. He was 84.
Born in Lombardy, Castelnuovo took on blue-collar jobs like house painting and mechanic work before traveling to Milan and enrolling in the Piccolo Teatro acting school. In 1957, he got his start as an actor as a mime on a children’s TV show and five years later, got his first taste of Hollywood via Walt Disney in “Escapade in Florence,” a mini-movie that aired on the “Disneyland” TV show starring Disney regulars Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk.
But Castelnuovo’s big break came in 1964 with “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” a sung-through romantic drama directed by Jacques Demy. Castelnuovo starred alongside Catherine Deneuve as a teenage couple forced apart by the Algerian War. As time goes on, the two find love elsewhere, but are unexpectedly reunited years later.
The film became a cult classic and was named by Damien Chazelle as a major inspiration for his Oscar-winning classic “La La Land.”
After starring in a handful of Italian films in the 60s, Castelnuovo transitioned to TV and got steady work in Italian series and commercials as well as in theater. In 1996, he made a brief return to the global cinema stage in “The English Patient” as an archeologist in flashback scenes recounting the life of Count Almasy, a man dying of grievous burns in the final days of World War II and played by Ralph Fiennes.
Castelnuovo made his final film performance in 2016 in the sports film “The Legacy Run.”