Bekim Fehmiu

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Bekim Fehmiu
Odissea Bekim Fehmiu.jpg
Fehmiu as Ulysses in L'Odissea
Born (1936-06-01)1 June 1936
Sarajevo, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Died 15 June 2010(2010-06-15) (aged 74)
Belgrade, Serbia
Ethnicity Albanian
Occupation Actor
Years active 1953–1998

Bekim Fehmiu (1 June 1936 – 15 June 2010) was a Yugoslavian theater and film actor of Albanian ethnicity.[1][2][3] He was the first Eastern European actor to star in Hollywood during the Cold War.[4]

Early life[edit]

Fehmiu was born in Sarajevo, Kingdom of Yugoslavia to Albanian parents. His family descends from merchant family of Imer Halili from the town of Gjakove in Kosovo ; his father Ibrahim took his high-school nickname Fehmiu as a surname.[5][6] In 1941, his family permanently moved to Prizren in Kosovo, where Bekim spent his childhood. He was part of the acting club at his high school in Prizren, and after graduation he became a member of County popular theatre in Pristina, the only professional Albanian language theatre in Yugoslavia.[4][6] He graduated from the Faculty of Drama Arts (FDU) in Belgrade in 1960.[6]


In 1960, Fehmiu became a member of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre in Belgrade, which he left in 1967, citing bad treatment, to became a free artist.[6]

Fehmiu's big break was the 1967 film I Even Met Happy Gypsies, a subtle portrayal of Roma life which won two awards in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar. Known for his macho appearance and mild manner, Fehmiu was then wooed by Western filmmakers and signed a contract with the Academy Award winning producer Dino De Laurentiis.

It was De Laurentiis who, in 1968, cast him as Odysseus in the acclaimed mini-series of The Odyssey. It was the first blockbuster of Italian television and made Fehmiu an icon in Europe.

Fehmiu seemed poised for stardom in Hollywood as well, but his first American film, The Adventurers, was a critical and financial disaster which "ruined any chances for Fehmiu to achieve similar stardom in Hollywood".[7] He played the role of the busy father in Raimondo Del Balzo's heartbreaking film The Last Snows of Spring in 1973, and the role of a Palestinian terrorist in John Frankenheimer's 1977 masterpiece Black Sunday. Despite his Hollywood films achieving little critical success, he excelled in European art house cinema as well as in the theatre, which was his natural medium.[4] By the end of his career he had acted in nine languages, including French, Spanish and Italian.[4]

In 1987, in protest at the Yugoslavian government's treatment of Kosovan Albanians, he walked off the stage at the Yugoslav Drama Theatre in Belgrade, during the play Madame Kollontai by Agneta Pleijel. He left the stage, and soon after, films.[6]


The New York Times dubbed him the "Yugoslav heart-throb" for his youthful conquests and acquaintances with the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Ava Gardner. Decades after his last appearance on the screen, readers of a leading Italian women's magazine voted him one of the ten most attractive men of the 20th century.[4]

Bekim Fehmiu appeared in 41 films between 1953 and 1998. Fehmiu was the first Albanian theater and film actor who acted in theaters and movies all over Yugoslavia, and he acted in a whole series of roles that changed the history of the Cinema of Yugoslavia and left a mark in the artistic developments abroad.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Serbian actress Branka Petrić. The couple had two sons, Hedon and Uliks (b. 1968), and resided in the Zvezdara area of Belgrade.[8] Uliks Fehmiu is also an actor.


In 2001, Samizdat B92 published a book of Bekim Fehmiu's memoirs, entitled Blistavo i strašno (Brilliant and Terrifying), which describes his life until 1955, the year he became an actor.[5]


Fehmiu was found dead on 15 June 2010 in his apartment in Belgrade. Initial reports stated he committed suicide.[9][10] Interior Minister Ivica Dačić said Fehmiu was found shot in his apartment and the gun was registered in Fehmiu's name.[11] He was 74 years old.

His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered in a river in Prizren where his family from his native Sarajevo was moved by turning a second home.[12]



  1. ^ "Veteran actor dies". 16 June 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  2. ^ "Bekim Fehmiu forse suicida" (in Italian). 16 June 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Kosova President Sejdiu remarks on Fehmiu" (in Albanian). 16 June 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Film Obituaries: Bekim Fehmiu". The Daily Telegraph (London). 16 June 2010. Archived from the original on 24 January 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Ćirić, Sonja (24 June 2010), Blistavo i strašno (in Serbian), Vreme 
  6. ^ a b c d e Uliks Fehmiu: Životopis moga oca Bekima (Croatian)
  7. ^ IMDb
  8. ^ Obituary London Daily Telegraph, 8 July 2010.
  9. ^ Tragičan odlazak Bekima Fehmiua (Serbian)
  10. ^ Suicida l'attore Bekim Fehmiu, fu celebre in Italia nei panni di Ulisse (Italian)
  11. ^ "Yugoslav Movie Star Bekim Fehmiu Found Dead". balkaninsight. Archived from the original on 18 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Bekimi në Prizren" (in Albanian). Pristina, Kosovo: Gazeta Express. 21 June 2010. Archived from the original on 24 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010. Pesë ditë pas vetëvrasjes së aktorit të madh Bekim Fehmiu, hiri i trupit të tij u hodh në Lumbardhin e Prizrenit, qytet të cilin e ka konsideruar si shtëpi të veten. Ky ishte amaneti i tij, që familjarët e përmbushën të dielën. 

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