Tonino Cervi, son of renowned Italian actor Gino Cervi and who worked successfully as a writer-director but is best known as a producer of films by Michelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci and others, died April 1 in Siena after suffering a heart attack. He was 72.
As a producer, Cervi shepherded a number of projects involving Pier Paolo Pasolini, who figured as screenwriter or co-scripter on Bertolucci’s 1962 debut “The Grim Reaper,” Mauro Bolognini’s “La Notte Brava” in 1969, and Florestano Vancini’s “It Happened in ’43,” which starred Cervi’s father.
Among his other productions are Bolognini’s “Wild Love” in 1955; Giuliano Montaldo’s 1961 debut “Pigeon Shoot”; Alberto Lattuada’s 1962 comedy “Mafioso,” starring Alberto Sordi; Valerio Caprioli’s “Lions in the Sun” in 1962; and Antonioni’s “Red Desert” in 1964, which won the Golden Lion at that year’s Venice Intl. Film Festival.
In 1962, he was a producer on the omnibus feature “Boccaccio ’70,” with episodes directed by Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Mario Monicelli and Luchino Visconti. Cervi was exec producer on Francesco Rosi’s “Moment of Truth” in 1965.
He also was instrumental in launching the career of actor Bud Spencer, casting the former swimming champion in one of his first key spaghetti Western roles in 1968’s “Today It’s Me … Tomorrow You!,” which Cervi directed from a script by Dario Argento.
Cervi’s directing career was less distinguished than his production credits, perhaps as a result of living in the artistic shadow of his father, one of a handful of major stars of Italian cinema in the 1930s and ’40s.
The biggest commercial successes directed by Cervi were the irreverent Moliere adaptations “Hypochondriac” in 1979 and “The Miser” in 1990, both starring Sordi and Laura Antonelli. He also directed “La Nottata” (1974), “Chi dice donna dice donna” (1976), “Nest of Vipers” (1977), “Il Turno” (1981), “The Naked Sun” (1984) and others.
Just prior to his death, Cervi had completed work on “Il Quaderno della spesa,” his first theatrical feature after more than two decades’ absence. The period drama stars Gabriele Lavia, Claudio Bigagli and Emanuela Muni, Cervi’s partner of recent years.
In addition to Muni, he is survived by four children, among them actress Valentina Cervi.