Italian director Franco Zeffirelli dies aged 96

Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli dies at 96

Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli dies at 96

According to Italian media they reported Franco died after a long illness which had grown worse in recent months.

The Zeffirelli Foundation offered a simple and affectionate "Ciao Maestro" on its website home page while leading Italian operas from Milan to Venice also paid tribute.

A director, screenwriter, and producer, Zeffirelli has about 20 feature films to his name.

Zeffirelli was best known for his 1968 adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which starred Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey, and earned the filmmaker a Best Director Academy Award nomination.

Another notable adaptation of the bard's plays would come in 1990's Hamlet - starring Mel Gibson in the title role, with Glenn Close and Helena Bonham Carter among the supporting cast.

He directed more than two dozen films, working with stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Faye Dunaway, and Jon Voight.

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Zeffirelli had a staggeringly prolific career for more than 60 years, and was celebrated as a director of films, theatre and opera.

Zeffirelli was born on the outskirts of Florence on February 12, 1923.

His mother gave him the surname "Zeffiretti' which means "little breeze" but, the story goes, it was misspelt on his birth certificate".

He directed the 1967 film The Taming of the Shrew and had a television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth in 1977.

"Franco Zeffirelli, one of the world's greatest men of culture, passed away this morning", tweeted Dario Nardella, mayor of Florence. He remained an Anglophile throughout his life, and was conferred with an honorary knighthood in 2004, making him the only Italian citizen to have received the honour.

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