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Bekim Fehmiu

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Bekim Fehmiu
Fehmiu as Ulysses in 1968 Italian TV miniseries L'Odissea.
Born(1936-06-01)1 June 1936
Died15 June 2010(2010-06-15) (aged 74)
Years active1953–1998

Bekim Fehmiu (Albanian: [bɛˈkim fɛhˈmiu]; Cyrillic: Беким Фехмију; 1 June 1936 – 15 June 2010) was a Yugoslavian theater and film actor. He was the first Eastern European actor to star in Hollywood during the Cold War,[1] and one of the internationally best-known ethnic Albanian actors.[2]


Early life[edit]

Fehmiu was born in Sarajevo, into an ethnic Albanian family[3][4][5] originating from Gjakova, Kosovo. His father Ibrahim adopted his high-school nickname Fehmiu as a surname replacing the original Imer Halili.[6] The family moved to Shkodër, Albania, where they spent three years, and in 1941 returned to Prizren[6] where Bekim spent his childhood.[7] 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.[1][7] He graduated from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts (FDU) in Belgrade in 1960.[7]

Acting career[edit]

In 1960, Fehmiu became a member of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre in Belgrade, which he left in 1967, citing bad treatment, to become a free artist.[7]

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 parts of 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".[8] In 1971, Fehmiu starred in the western action drama The Deserter, directed by Burt Kennedy. In 1973 he played the role of the busy father in Raimondo Del Balzo's heartbreaking film The Last Snows of Spring, and then in 1975 played the role of ex-politician Alexander Diakim in the movie Permission to Kill, with Ava Gardner and Dirk Bogarde. In 1976, Fehmiu starred as fictional murdered Luftwaffe pilot, Hans Reiter in Tinto Brass's film, Salon Kitty alongside Helmut Berger, Ingrid Thulin and Teresa Ann Savoy. He portrayed a Palestinian terrorist in John Frankenheimer's 1977 political thriller, Black Sunday. Despite his Hollywood films achieving little success, he did well in European art house cinema as well as in the theatre, the latter being his preferred medium.[1] He portrayed the father of Mother Teresa, Nikola Boyaxhiu, in the 1982 film La Voce (The Voice). He acted as Joseph in the Italian production A Child Called Jesus (1987). He was to have acted in the movie Genghis Khan (1992), but it was ultimately never made.

In 1987, in protest at the Yugoslavian government's treatment of Kosovar 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, film.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Fehmiu was married to Serbian actress Branka Petrić. The couple had two sons, Hedon and Uliks, and resided in the Zvezdara area of Belgrade.[9] Uliks Fehmiu [sr] is also an actor.


Fehmiu on a 2017 Serbian stamp

Fehmiu was found dead on 15 June 2010 in his apartment in Belgrade. Initial reports stated he committed suicide.[10][11] Interior Minister Ivica Dačić said Fehmiu was found shot in his apartment and the gun was registered in Fehmiu's name.[12] He was 74 years old. His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered in Prizren Bistrica in Prizren, his childhood home.[13]


The New York Times dubbed Fehmiu 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.[1]

Fehmiu appeared in 41 films between 1953 and 1998. He was one of the first Albanian theater and film actors to act in theaters and movies all over Yugoslavia, with Abdurrahman Shala, Faruk Begolli and Enver Petrovci, appearing in a series of roles that changed the history of the Cinema of Yugoslavia and left a mark in the artistic developments elsewhere. By the end of his career he had acted in film productions in nine languages, including Balkan languages, French, Spanish, English and Italian.[1]

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.[6]



Year Title Role Notes
1957 Subotom uvece 1960 Dan cetrnaesti
1961 Tu ne tueras point Čuvar u čekaonici Uncredited
1962 Saša Marić, poručnik Kraljevske vojske
1964 Pod isto nebo Kerim
1965 Devojka
1965 Klakson Marko
1965 Neprijatelj
1965 Ko puca otvoriće mu se
1966 Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment Uncredited
1966 Roj Halil Beg
1966 Vreme ljubavi Milija, trubač (segment "Put")
1966 Tople godine Mirko
1967 I Even Met Happy Gypsies Bora
1967 Protest Ivo Bajsić
1968 Uzrok smrti ne pominjati Mihajlo
1970 The Adventurers Dax Xenos
1970 The Deserter Capt. Victor Kaleb
1971 Klopka za generala Doktor – obaveštajac OZNE
1973 The Last Snows of Spring Roberto
1974 Il gioco della verità
1974 Deps Deps
1974 Il testimone deve tacere Il dottor Giorgio Sironi
1974 Košava Adam Milovanović
1975 Cagliostro Count Alexander Cagliostro / Giuseppe Balsamo]
1975 Libera, amore mio... Sandro Poggi
1975 Pavle Pavlović Pavle Pavlović
1975 Permission to Kill Alexander Diakim
1976 Salon Kitty Hans Reiter
1977 Disposta a tutto Marco
1977 Black Sunday Mohammed Fasil
1977 Special Education Vaspitač Žarko Munižaba
1978 Stići pre svitanja Esad Ljumi
1979 Partizanska eskadrila Major Dragan
1981 Široko je lišće Baja
1982 Sarâb Vlsdar
1982 La Voce Nicolay
1982 Pavilón seliem Kalmán Furtek
1985 Crveni i crni Ivan Pipan
1992 Genghis Khan unfinished film


Year Title Role Notes
1968 L'Odissea Ulisse International TV mini-series
1968 Prljave ruke TV film
1972 Paljenje Rajhstaga [Georgi Dimitrov] TV short
1979 I vecchi e i giovani Aurelio Costa TV mini-series
1987 Un bambino di nome Gesù Joseph TV mini-series
1987 Poslednja priča TV film
1989 Disperatamente Giulia Armando Zani #2 TV mini-series
1998 Il cuore e la spada Gormond TV film


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Elsie, Robert (2010). Historical Dictionary of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. p. 97. ISBN 9780810874831.
  3. ^ "Veteran actor dies". 16 June 2010. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  4. ^ "Bekim Fehmiu forse suicida" (in Italian). 16 June 2010. Archived from the original on 4 April 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  5. ^ "Kosova President Sejdiu remarks on Fehmiu" (in Albanian). 16 June 2010. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Ćirić, Sonja (24 June 2010), Blistavo i strašno (in Serbian), Vreme
  7. ^ a b c d e Uliks Fehmiu: Životopis moga oca Bekima (in Croatian)
  8. ^ Bekim Fehmiu. IMDb
  9. ^ Obituary London Daily Telegraph, 8 July 2010.
  10. ^ Tragičan odlazak Bekima Fehmiua (in Serbian)
  11. ^ Suicida l'attore Bekim Fehmiu, fu celebre in Italia nei panni di Ulisse Archived 19 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine (in Italian)
  12. ^ "Yugoslav Movie Star Bekim Fehmiu Found Dead". balkaninsight. Archived from the original on 18 June 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  13. ^ "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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