Franco Diogene was born in Catania in 1947 and moved at a young age to Genoa. From the age of six years old he was involved with the performing arts, appearing in numerous plays and performances while still at school. He graduated in 1972, becoming a professional actor in the same year with the Teatro Stabile di Genoa, directed by Ivo Chiesa and Luigi Squarzina.
He made his first film in 1973, Teresa la ladra starring Monica Vitti, and from then until his death in 2005 he took part on over 90 films. He was almost exclusively a character performer, appearing in small or supporting parts, often playing either inefficient or corrupt bureaucrats, lawyers and henchmen (although he was equally adept at more amiable, jovial characters). A chubby, sweaty fellow, he followed in the footsteps of Gianni Rizzo – another rather camp and rotund performer – and is one of those performers who is instantly recognisable and a welcome sight on screen.
The films he appeared in tended to be at the lower budget end of the scale: he worked regularly with directors such as Mario Landi (Il viziaccio, Sexysupermarket), Gianni Martucci (Blazing Flowers, Trhauma) and Michele Massimo Tarantini (La poliziotta della squadra del buon costume, L’insegnante al mare con tutta la classe). And despite being a natural for comedies, he also appeared in giallos and crime films.
When not making films was heavily involved in writing and performing for cabaret, appearing regularly with Turi Ferro, and also worked as a presenter and entertainer, fronting numerous fashion shows, singing competitions and other events.
An English speaker who lived for a short time in the United States in the mid 1970s, he was also involved in some international productions, most particularly Midnight Express in 1978, in which he used his own voice and The Name of the Rose (84). He was also expert in the assorted Italian dialects, which he would commonly use in his cabaret nights. After continuing to wirk well into the 2000s he died of a heart attack on the 28th May 2005.
A brief interview with Franco Diogene
You acted in numerous films, which ones have left an indelible mark on you?
Well, I’ve been a professional actor since 1973 and shot over a hundred films, the most important was Midnight Express, an American – English film which won two Oscars, then The Name of the Rose and The House of Spirits. Among the Italian films it would be Innamorato pazzo, 7 chili in 7 giorni, Piccolo Grande Amores
What do you need to be an actor?
To be an actor is a craft just like many others. You can wake up in the morning and go to the factory, go to the office or do acting. This craft is something that you have to know inside out, so I began with parish theatre, then in dialect, then prose theatre. For those that feel the fire of the art you can do several things, but maybe not in Catania. The city isn’t a big centre for the performing arts, so you need to go to Rome or Milan