At the height of his considerable popularity, Terence Hill was one of Italy's highest-paid stars. A tall, handsome blonde of German-Italian heritage, Hill was born Mario Girotti (he used his birth name onscreen until 1968). Hill was born in Venice but spent the WWII years living in Dresden, Germany. When he was 12, Hill was '"discovered" during a swim meet by Italian filmmaker Dino Risi who cast him in Vacanze col Gangster (Holiday for Gangsters) (1951). Through the decade, Hill made occasional film appearances to pay for his education and his interest in motorcycles. He spent three years studying literature at the University of Rome before deciding to become a full-time actor working in films ranging from The Wonders of Aladdin (1961) -- the first Hill film to reach the U.S., albeit a decade after its European release -- and Luchino Viconti's Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963). Afterwards, Hill made action films and Westerns in Germany until 1967 when he returned to Italy and appeared in Dio perdona... lo no!
He changed his name from Mario Girotti to Terence Hill in 1969. He came up with his name by combining the name of the author of a Latin book, Terenzio, with the maiden name of his American wife, Lori. Hill gained popularity when he co-starred with Bud Spencer in the comic spaghetti Western They Call Me Trinity (1971) and its sequel, Trinity is STILL My Name (1972). Hill and Spencer would work together in some 19 films. Hill made two films in Hollywood, March or Die (1976), starring with Gene Hackman, and Mr. Billion (1976), his first undubbed English-speaking role, in which he starred opposite Valerie Perrine. He was not as successful in the U.S. as in Europe, but eventually he made it his permanent residence. Hill had a minor hit in 1981 with Super Fuzz. In 1983, he added directing to his repertoire. Later in the decade, he also started producing features.