Francesco Quinn, who played the title character “Vlad” in my first film as a director and who was a good friend and great man, has died tragically and unexpectedly at 48. A health nut who kept himself in great shape, he died of a heart attack while running near his home on Friday night. His early passing is a tragedy on many levels — perhaps the greatest being that he was giddily, crazily in love with his wife Valentina and three young children, who will now have to find their way forward without him. I have never known anyone more devoted or committed to family than Francesco was, and he and Valentina had wonderful plans for a shared future that included an expectation of living to the kind of ripe and rewarding old age that had blessed Francesco’s father, the great actor Anthony Quinn, who was 86 when he died in 2001. For Francesco to only be granted little more than half the lifespan of his father is hard to fathom. He was born in Rome on March 22, 1963 and was best known for his 1986 breakout performance in Platoon, as well as his role as Tomas Del Cerro CBS’ Young and the Restless. Most recently, he played the voice of Mirage/Dino in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. He father was the iconic actor, Anthony Quinn. He is survived by his wife Valentina Castellani-Quinn, his three children Sofia, Max and Michela, and his 10 siblings.
I first met Francesco when we were casting for Vlad. He came in like a hurricane, full of swagger and talent that wouldn’t be denied. He gave a great reading — by far the best of those in the audition phase — and after considering more than a hundred actors for the role, the producers and I were in full agreement that he was the right (and only) choice. Francesco was perfect.
Working with Francesco was effortless. He was always prepared and brought something special to each scene – an insight, an unexpected twist, or a hidden nugget of truth that he would manager to unearth off the page. Our work caused us to spend weeks in a small hotel in Transylvania – but Francesco always seemed t0 have a never-ending stash of great wine, prosciutto, and other goodies that were unavailable locally, and which he shared generously with the rest of us.
Over the years we stayed in touch. I remember around 2004 he was ready to go off to Afghanistan and shoot a war film guerilla style, in Afghanistan in the midst of war. Other times he came by with other projects, and we talked about doing something together. But more than anything I will always remember that every time we got together, the conversation always turned to his wife, and his kids. They were everything to him, as mine are to me.
The last time I heard from him was July 21, just a few weeks ago, when he posted this picture and caption on his Facebook page — both say everything about the man:
I called this picture LOVE, because this is what love feels and looks like to me. I admire, respect and fawn over Valentina every minute of every day. She is smart, full of enthusiasm, fervor, spirituality and talent, loads of talent. This, most beautiful and talented fashion designer is currently in Italy working 18 hour days, following every single line she designs, from inception, to execution, refinement and final product. She continues to amaze me by truly caring and caring about those she loves……..like me!
Valentina has made a statement: “Francesco was my soulmate and the best father for Sofia, Michela and Max. I will love him forever.”