ROME (AP) — Giorgio Albertazzi, a theater and film actor and director famed especially for playing, well into old age, the emperor's role based on "Memories of Hadrian," died Saturday in his native Tuscany.
His family and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi's office announced the 92-year-old's death, with the Italian leader hailing him as a "great personality our culture." President Sergio Mattarella described Albertazzi, who was known for his good looks, as a "maestro to generations" of directors and actors.
On stage, often in Shakespeare's plays, Albertazzi worked with some of Italy's most celebrated directors, including Luchino Visconti, for whom he debuted in 1949, and Franco Zeffirelli.
He was most identified with a role he played more than 1,000 times and into his 90s in Italy and abroad — that of Hadrian, drawing on Marguerite Yourcenar's popular book. Albertazzi first played the role when he was 66, in 1989, and would later say he identified much of himself with it, especially the process of growing old.
"Doing it, I also speak of myself," Albertazzi said when he was 90. "After all, I feel — a lot — the end of beauty that is consumed, that runs through the text, that seizes the moment in which the harmony of body and mind breaks and enters in conflict."
Among his noted Shakespeare roles were Othello, Henry IV and Hamlet, including an acclaimed performance as the latter at London's Old Vic theater in 1964.
"He was the greatest Italian actor," said Gigi Proietti, who directed Albertazzi in "Falstaff." ''The public knew that very well, and perhaps he, too, was conscious of having the task of being the last of the greats" of the 1900s.
"But always with the desire to experiment, never to be obvious," Proietti told the Italian news agency ANSA. "Directing Albertazzi? It was like playing a Stradivarius."
This story corrects the name of the celebrated Italian director Luchino Visconti.