The legendary Italian Western and Euro-cult film star Tomas Milian has passed away. Milian was born in Cuba but he moved to America to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. He eventually studied method acting under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York.
Milian relocated to Italy at the end of the 1950s and by the mid-1960s he had become a leading name in the booming Spaghetti Western genre. Indeed, Milian worked with the biggest stars (Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volontè, Franco Nero, Jack Palance) and the biggest directors (Sergio Corbucci, Sergio Sollima, Giulio Petroni, Lucio Fulci) of the genre.
Milian was noted for starring in Spaghetti Westerns – such as The Big Gundown (La resa dei conti, Sergio Sollima, 1966), Face to Face (Faccia a faccia, Sergio Sollima, 1967), Django Kill (Se sei vivo spara, Giulio Questi, 1967), Run, Man, Run (Corri uomo corri, Sergio Sollima, 1968), Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968) and Compañeros (Vamos a matar, compañeros, Sergio Corbucci, 1970) – that had strong political subtexts.
Many of these films were set during the Mexican Revolution, which allowed Milian to play proletarian everymen who emerged victorious from the situations of oppression that they initially found themselves in. As such the actor once suggested that he had become a recognizable symbol of poverty and revolution to the third world cinemagoers who watched his politically charged Westerns.
When the vogue for Italian Westerns began to fade in the early 1970s, Milian was able to successfully switch genres and become a star of the Italian poliziottesco (police/crime) films. In his later years he would appear in Hollywood films such as Traffic (Steven Soderbergh, USA/Germany, 2000).