Gheorghe Dinica, a Romanian actor who delighted his country by portraying characters such as villainous politicians and defiant Gypsies in dozens of plays and movies, died Tuesday. He was 75.
Dinica, famous throughout Romania, died at Floreasca Hospital in Bucharest from pneumonia with complications, said hospital spokesman Dr. Bogdan Oprita.
Dinica began his long acting career with a role in a Romanian film version of Albert Camus' "The Stranger" in 1963. He went on to perform in many Romanian and foreign movies, soap operas and plays, right up until his death.
In 2007, he acted in Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" movie. He also joined French actor Anthony Delon in the film "L'Homme Press" in 2005. He said he was never tempted to act in movies produced in the United States.
"I am not Robert de Niro. I am from Romania," he said.
Still, some called Dinica "the Robert de Niro of Romania," given his resemblance to the American actor.
Romanians admired him for his wide repertoire and his singing, but also because of his modesty, humor and his refusal to praise the country's late Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, as some artists had done.
"I was lucky because my face didn't look that good on television," he said.
Dinica frequently thrilled Romanians by spontaneously breaking into song at Bucharest restaurants where he was dining.
Marcel Iures, another well-known Romanian actor, said of Dinica: "We worked together, we acted and we laughed together."
"He was an angel all his life," Iures said on Realitatea TV.
Romanian actor Florin Zamfirescu said: "He was loved by everyone: directors, actors and the public, men and women alike. On stage, he was like a fish in water."
Upon receiving news of Dinica's death, Romanian President Traian Basescu called the actor "a model of humanity, modesty and generosity."
Dinica acted in comedy and drama with equal aplomb, and was best known on stage for his role in the seven-year production of the play "Take, Lanke and Cadar," a 1933 dry Romanian comedy by Victor Ion Popa about three friends _ a Jew, a Christian and a Turk _ who run modest shops in the same area.
In his last two years, Dinica starred in "Regina" and "Heart of a Gypsy," two soap operas about Gypsies, a minority in Eastern Europe that faces widespread discrimination. They also are known as Roma.
He also starred in "Aniela," a Romanian period play that came out this fall.
Dinica, who was born in Bucharest in 1934, was awarded several awards in Romania during his life, including the Faithful Service Order in 2008 by Basescu.
Dinica is survived by his wife, Gabriela Georgeta Dinica, whom he married in 1996.
No funeral plans were immediately announced.