Carmelo Bene, 64; Provocative, Influential Italian Actor-Director

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Carmelo Bene, 64, a provocative actor and director who invigorated Italian theater with experimental techniques influenced by the European avant-garde, died Saturday at his home in Rome. He had suffered from serious heart problems.

Born in the southern town of Campi Salentina in 1937, Bene made his stage debut in Rome in 1959 in “Caligula” by French writer Albert Camus.

Bene directed himself in many plays, often reinterpreting classics, such as Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” While working in film in the 1960s and ‘70s, he appeared in director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Oedipus Rex” in 1967. The next year, Bene’s own film, “Our Lady of the Turks,” won a prize at the Venice Film Festival.

He returned to the stage in the mid-1970s and later directed performances in which he read poems to classical music.


In a letter to Bene’s family, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi called the actor an “extraordinary dramatic talent” who was “provocative and constantly searching for new modes of expression.”