×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Italian Actress Virna Lisi Dies At 78

Lisi's career comprised memorable roles in film from Europe and Hollywood

ROME – Italian actress Virna Lisi who played memorable roles in European and Hollywood films including 1965 comedy classic “How To Murder Your Wife,” with Jack Lemmon, in which she famously pops out of wedding cake wearing a bikini, and also a masterfully maleficent queen in Patrice Chereau’s “La Reine Margot,” died in Rome on Thursday. She was 78.

Lisi had been recently diagnosed with an unspecified form of cancer, according to Italian press reports.

Born in Ancona 1936 as Virna Pieralisi, she began her film career as a teenager in 1953, initially thanks to her stunning looks. Her increasingly important parts in Italian postwar pics include 1957 drama “La Donna Del Giorno,” 1963 crimer “Il Delitto” Dupre, with Alain Delon, and Mario Monicelli’s 1965 Italo comedy classic “Casanova ’70’,” in which she co-starred with Marcello Mastroianni.

In 1965 Lisi was put under contract by Paramount. She debuted in Hollywood as a blue-eyed temptress opposite Jack Lemmon in Richard Quine’s “How To Murder Your Wife,” followed by “Not With My Wife, You Don’t” with Tony Curtis, in 1966, directed by Norman Panama, and “Assault on a Queen” with Frank Sinatra, also in 1966, directed by Jack Donohue.

Tired of being relegated to playing “dumb blonde” roles, Lisi in the late ’60’s broke her seven-year Paramount contract, after paying a costly penalty fee and reportedly turning down the lead role in Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella,” which went to Jane Fonda.

Popular on Variety

Back in Europe, Lisi struggled to find roles appropriate to her stature. But one came along in 1994 with her performance as the witchy queen Caterina de’ Medici in “La Reine Margot,” which won her the Prix Du Jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and also a Cesar, France’s top film nod. She was honored with a career Italian Golden Globe in 2004 and also received numerous other Italian nods.

More recently, Lisi’s career mostly involved Italian TV series with the notable exceptions of Cristina Comencini’s ensemble drama “The Best Day Of My Life.” Lisi’s last film performance, after a twelve year hiatus, is in Cristina Comencini’s upcoming comedy “Latin Lover,” now in post.

Lisi is survived by a son, Corrado, and three grandchildren, Franco, Federico, and Riccardo.

More Film

  • Give Me Liberty

    'Give Me Liberty' Grabs Best Film Award in Macao

    Kirill Mikhanovsky’s “Give Me Liberty” and Gu Xiaogang’s “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains won the best picture prizes in the international and Chinese cinema sections on Tuesday at the International Film Festival and Awards Macau (IFFAM). “This film shouldn’t have existed because there were so many obstacles. Everything was a miracle. Us being here is [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    'Hustlers,' 'Jojo Rabbit' and 'Queen & Slim' Receive Costume Design Nominations

    The Costume Designers Guild announced their nominations for the 22nd CDGA Awards on Tuesday. Among the nominees are Arianne Phillips for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Mayes C. Rubeo for “Jojo Rabbit” and Mitchell Travers for “Hustlers.” “The Irishman” is notably absent from the field. The Costume Designers Guild celebrates excellence in film, television [...]

  • JKR_DAY030_102518_0688465.dng

    'Joker,' 'Frozen 2' Receive Cinema Audio Society Nominations

    “Joker,” “Frozen 2,” “The Lion King,” “Ford v Ferrari” and “Toy Story 4” have scored nominations for sound mixing from the Cinema Audio Society. The 56th edition of the awards will be presented on Jan. 25 at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown. Nominations were announced on Tuesday. “Each year I am gobsmacked by the impressive [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content