Jan 25, 2015

Franco Columbu: Arnold's Other Half

Sardinian-born Franco Columbu is a long-time work-out buddy and friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In 1968, they came to American together.  Joe Weider, my first boss in L.A., paid for their shared apartment while they were struggling.

But soon Arnold commenced a movie career, and he introduced Franco into some of the first movies to bring bodybuilding to a mainstream audience: Stay Hungry (1976), Pumping Iron (1977), and The Hustler of Muscle Beach (1980), which wasn't about that kind of hustler.

Their closeness elicited the usual gay rumors, which neither seemed to mind.

When Arnold became a star, he continued to help out his pal, giving him screen time in Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Terminator (1984), and Running Man (1987).

In the 1990s Franco, still in top shape, produced a series of man-mountain actioners set in Sardinia: Desperate Crimes (1993), Taken Alive (1995), Doublecross on Costa's Island (1997).

Like most movies in the man-mountain genre, there was usually a girl, but the buddy-bonding took precedence.  Beretta's Island (1994) was about a retired Interpol agent trying to find out who murdered his friend.

Ancient Warriors (2003) paired Franco with Daniel Baldwin as special agent buddies eliciting supernatural assistance to defeat a crime lord in Sardinia.

In 2011 Franco starred in the Italian movie  La terra dei sogni (Dreamland), about boxer Frank Graziani (Franco), who mentors the young James De Cristoforo (Ivano De Cristoforo).  I haven't seen it, but according to the Italian synopsis, there are "stunning scenes" in which the relationship between the two becomes "vivid and full of emotions."

Sounds good.


  1. This comment was stimulated by the bodybuilding pictures of Arnold and Franco in this post, and is not directly related to Franco, but it is interesting to note that you don't see the steroid bodies of the Schwarzenegger 80's anymore as an idea of masculine beauty and strength as it was back in those days. The bodies and the muscles in these photographs (especially the second from the top) depict un-natural even freakish proportions on Arnold's body. I think steriods in bodybuilding culture were new at the time, so the effects on those that took them were unusual compared to what was achievable naturally. I for one am glad to see the freakish aspect from those days gone. I wonder if Arnold would have achieved the same celebrity today as he did then ? I'm fairly certain Arnold would not have been as big a 'thing' in celebrity culture without the help of steriods. (this isn't a comment on his humanity. it's just interesting to wonder if he'd have made it as big without pharmaceutical help.)

    1. Arnold popularized the idea of bodybuilding, moving it from a niche sport into the mainstream. He could probably have done that without steroids.


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