Italian director Luchino Visconti looked all over Europe for “pure beauty” to play a young male sexual object in his 1970 film ‘Death In Venice.’
His final choice, a 15-year-old Swedish orphan named Björn Andrésen, lived to regret ever being given the role. His boyhood made him vulnerable from the start. He never knew who his father was and his mother killed herself when he was ten.
He was given the part of a Polish boy named Tadzio, who becomes the obsession of an aging and ailing homosexual composer played by Dirk Bogarde.
Young Björn was paid $4,000 for his role ($30,000 in today’s money) and the movie made him an overnight sensation. People around the world fell in love with his face. They compared his beauty to that of Michelangelo’s David.
But the fame would turn into a “living nightmare” for Andrésen that he said scarred him for life.
His story is told in a documentary film, “The Most Beautiful Boy in the World,’ to be released in theaters July 30.
Both Visconti and Bogarde were openly homosexual, and the movie, which was based on a novella by the gay German writer Thomas Mann, was filmed by a mostly gay crew.
Björn Andrésen isn’t homosexual but the movie became a gay cult film.
Now 66, Andrésen describes Visconti as a “cultural predator” who exploited his youth and looks for publicity, taking him to gay nightclubs and turning him into a sex object.
Young Björn was a trophy companion for rich Paris men who showered him with gifts and escorted him to the finest restaurants. As he grew older and lost his youthful allure, Andrésen became an alcoholic and suffered bouts of depression, a troubled state of mind that exists today. His acting career as an adult went nowhere and he worked as a music teacher.
After a failed and tragic marriage during which he lost an infant son due to “crib death,” Andrésen lives alone in a flat in Stockholm, “chain smoking,” as the documentary relates, “bickering with his long-suffering girlfriend and getting into trouble with his landlord for leaving the gas stove on.”
During his lifetime, Luchino Visconti’s lovers included the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli and the last king of Italy, Umberto II.
Visconti died in 1976 at the age of 69.
DOCUMENTARY OUT JULY 30