Italian Bodybuilder, Actor Franco Columbu Dies at 78

August 31, 2019 Updated: August 31, 2019

ROME—Italian bodybuilder, boxer and actor Franco Columbu, one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s closest friends, has died aged 78.

Columbu died in a hospital in his native Sardinia on Friday afternoon after being taken ill while he was swimming in the sea.

Producer and former Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe, Franco Columbu attends "Cinema Italian Style:
Producer and former Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe, Franco Columbu attends “Cinema Italian Style: New Films From Italy (Under the Sign of Fellini)” at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.,on June 4, 2004. ( Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images)

His longtime friend Schwarzenegger tweeted: “I love you Franco. I will always remember the joy you brought to my life, the advices you gave me, and the twinkle in your eye that never disappeared.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger Comic Con 2019
Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks at the “Terminator: Dark Fate” panel during 2019 Comic-Con International in San Diego, Calif., on July 18, 2019. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

After starting his career as a boxer, Columbu progressed into Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and later bodybuilding, winning the prestigious title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981.

Besides his athletic career, Columbu also acted in popular TV series and movies. He appeared in Schwarzenegger’s films “The Terminator,” ”The Running Man” and “Conan the Barbarian.”

Columbu was Schwarzenegger’s best man at his marriage to Maria Shriver in 1986.

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