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Born Antonio Luiz de Teffé von Hoonholtz at the Brazilian embassy in Rome, in the Pamphilj Palace, his family had noble blood of a long lineage of Count (von Hoonholtz) originally from Prussia. His great grandfather was the Great Baron of Tefé. First born among Manoel de Teffe' von Hoonholtz children (Federico de Teffe' and Melissa de Teffe'), a Formula One racing champion and Brazilian Ambassador and his grandaunt was Nair de Tefé von Hoonholtz, wife of Brazilian President Hermes Fonseca, and first caricaturist of Brazil. While still a teenager, Antonio fought in World War II along the partisans against the Nazis.
Under the name Antonio de Teffé, he worked behind the scenes in several Italian productions in the early 50's and later acted in several movies, but never really achieving stardom. In 1962, he had a bit part in Sodom and Gomorrah.
An early appearance of his was in the 1955 Gli Sbandati.
From 1965 to 1975, the newly named Anthony Steffen achieved considerable fame in Europe, amassing cult status, starring in 27 Spaghetti Westerns. Considered to be an "Italian Clint Eastwood", he was sometimes unfairly criticized for being a stiff or wooden actor. Several of his movies were sizeable box office hits in Europe. Among them were:
Django The Bastard (aka Stranger's Gundown, 1969) a movie that was produced and written by Steffen, is considered to be an inspiration for Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter. In several of his movies, Steffen starred alongside other Spaghetti Western luminaries such as Gianni Garko, Peter Lee Lawrence, and William Berger. Outside of the Spaghetti western genre, Steffen also appeared in several Giallo movies including The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971). His roles and status diminished as the Spaghetti Western genre fell into decline. Amassing a considerable fortune from his career as an actor, Steffen embarked on a jet set lifestyle.
In his career Steffen performed alongside Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Elke Sommer, Giuliano Gemma, Franco Nero, Gian Maria Volonté, Esmeralda Barros and many other stars of the American and Italian cinema.