Franco Columbu was born in Sardinia, Italy in 1941. He immigrated to the United States in 1969, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1987. Columbu has earned numerous bodybuilding titles, including Mr. Olympia, Mr. International, Mr. World, Mr. Universe, Mr. Europe, and Mr. Italy, despite his slight stature, usually reported as 5 foot 5 inches, well under that of most bodybuilders.
During the 1975 Mr. Olympia competition in Pretoria, South Africa, he was one of the contestants featured in the documentary movie Pumping Iron. In one memorable scene of the movie, Franco is shown demonstrating the power of his lungs by inflating a hot water bottle until it exploded. Pumping Iron documented how Columbu went on to win in the under 200 pounds class.
When Pumping Iron was released, it gained a wide following, and won him international fame, leading to many other film and television appearances. He often appeared with good friend and fellow competitor Arnold Schwarzenegger in such movies as Conan the Barbarian and Terminator. As he gained more experience as a performer and became known in the industry, more opportunities resulted in appearances in such television programs as Hustler of Muscle Beach and Streets of San Francisco, as well as numerous commercials and cameo roles.
Columbu was not content to develop his body only. Even while training for the Mr. Olympia title, he was enrolled in Chiropractic school. He admirably balanced his coursework with his physical training for the competition.
Franco suffered a major setback while competing in the nationally televised World’s Strongest Man competition of 1977. Millions of viewers watched in horror as his leg was dislocated during the Refrigerator race event. Major surgery was required to remove a massive amount of muscle in order to fix his leg. Franco’s determination and discipline, coupled with his extensive knowledge of the human body, enabled him to recover and rebuild his muscles in time to win the 1981 Mr. Universe title.
With a passion to add to his knowledge and expertise, and to achieve the credentials to help others to be healthy and fit, he earned a PhD in 1982. He has a successful and respected practice as a doctor of chiropractic, specializing in kinesiology and sports injuries.
Columbu has served as professional trainer for actors such as Gary Busey, Fred Dryer, and Sylvester Stallone, and maintains his practice in Los Angeles California. He is active in the American Chiropractic Association and the National Health Federation, as well as the International Federation of Bodybuilders, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Screen Actors Guild.
Franco has remained close friends with his former competitor and costar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he met in Munich in 1965. Franco served as best man at Arnold’s wedding to Maria Shriver in April 1986. In Schwarzenegger’s 1993 movie, Last Action Hero, Franco was credited as director of a movie within the movie.
In addition to these many achievements, Franco Columbu has written numerous books on topics related to health and fitness, including nutrition, weight training, and power lifting, and is sought after as a speaker on health and bodybuilding throughout the world.