Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

(July 27, 1922–February 19, 1986): Heavyset Italian character actor (his last name is pronounced CHELL-ee) who played Emilio Largo, the ruthless, one-eyed SPECTRE spymaster in Thunderball. Commanding in bearing and mannerisms, Celi was well cast as Largo, a big operator who can easily turn from charmer to killer when SPECTRE business is at stake. His voice, however, was redubbed by London-born actor Robert Rietty.

A native of Messina, Sicily, Celi made his feature film debut in director Luigi Zampa’s Un americano in vacanza (1946). After many Italian films, Celi was featured in That Man from Rio (1964), director Philippe de Broca’s terrific spoof of the James Bond movies that starred Jean-Paul Belmondo. The following year, Celi portrayed Battaglia, the corrupt prison camp warden in the Frank Sinatra World War II classic Von Ryan’s Express, and Cardinal Giovanni de’Medici in The Agony and the Ecstacy. In 1967, Celi joined fellow Bond veterans Daniela Bianchi, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, and Lois Maxwell in another 007 spoof, Operation Kid Brother, starring Sean Connery’s brother Neil.


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