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Roberto Benigni

Roberto Benigni

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: October 27, 1952 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Arrezzo, Tuscany, IT Profession: actor, screenwriter, comedian, producer, director, magician's assistant, clown, musician

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Boasting a genuine gift for physical comedy, the exuberant Roberto Benigni started his career in underground theater and later attained great popularity in Italian films and television. Discovered while performing comic monologues in Rome, Benigni began to write and act in various Italian productions, earning significant local fame. Thanks to the imaginative casting of director Jim Jarmusch, he had his international breakout role in the laidback farce "Down by Law" (1986), despite speaking no English at the time. From the start, the left-leaning comic liked to flirt with the boundaries of taste - even making fun of the Pope on Italian television, something that was simply not done. He was also determined to push boundaries in cinema, choosing risky subject matter rarely utilized in comedy. An attempt to sell him to mainstream American audiences as a successor to Peter Sellers in "Son of the Pink Panther" (1993) did not fly, but Benigni's earnest comedy-drama about the Holocaust, "Life is Beautiful" (1997), became a groundbreaking global success and the highest grossing foreign language film in America. Such comedic experiments were consistently successful in Italy, but not always internationally,...

Boasting a genuine gift for physical comedy, the exuberant Roberto Benigni started his career in underground theater and later attained great popularity in Italian films and television. Discovered while performing comic monologues in Rome, Benigni began to write and act in various Italian productions, earning significant local fame. Thanks to the imaginative casting of director Jim Jarmusch, he had his international breakout role in the laidback farce "Down by Law" (1986), despite speaking no English at the time. From the start, the left-leaning comic liked to flirt with the boundaries of taste - even making fun of the Pope on Italian television, something that was simply not done. He was also determined to push boundaries in cinema, choosing risky subject matter rarely utilized in comedy. An attempt to sell him to mainstream American audiences as a successor to Peter Sellers in "Son of the Pink Panther" (1993) did not fly, but Benigni's earnest comedy-drama about the Holocaust, "Life is Beautiful" (1997), became a groundbreaking global success and the highest grossing foreign language film in America. Such comedic experiments were consistently successful in Italy, but not always internationally, with his expensive interpretation of "Pinocchio" (2002) a major failure. While Benigni's high-spirited persona exasperated some, his obvious comedic abilities and artistic daring marked him as one of the most important comedians of his generation.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Pinocchio (2002) Director
3.
  Life is Beautiful (1998) Director
4.
  Monster, The (1995) Director
6.
  Johnny Stecchino (1991) Director
7.
  You Disturb Me (1990) Director
8.
  Little Devil, The (1988) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 Words In Progress (2004) Himself
4.
 Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) Himself
5.
6.
 Fellini: I'm A Born Liar (2002) Himself
7.
 Pinocchio (2002) Pinocchio
8.
 Fellini (2001) Himself
9.
 Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar (1999) Detritus
10.
 Life is Beautiful (1998) Guido Orefice
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Tuscany, Italy
1963:
Introduced to performing at age 10 by relatives who involved him in an improvised song and poetry act
:
Worked as a clown and magician's assistant in his early teens
1969:
Discovered at age 16 by the director of an experimental theater group while delivering an improvised satirical political speech in Italy
1972:
Made stage debut at the Satiri in Rome in the comedy "I Burosaui"
:
First theatrical success with "Cioni Mario Di Gaspare Fu Giulia/Mario Was Julia"; written by Giuseppe Bertolucci
1977:
Feature acting debut, "Berlinguer, Ti Voglio Bene/Berlinguer, I Love You"; directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci
1976:
Became famous in Italy for the series "Onda Libera"; co-wrote with Giuseppe Bertolucci; the series was suspended due to censorship
1978:
Played a lazy film critic who never watches the films he's asked to review on the TV series "L'altra domenica"
1983:
Feature writing and directing debut, "Tu Mi Turbi/You Disturb Me"; first film collaboration with future wife Nicoletta Braschi
1983:
Starred in the concert film of his one-man show "TuttoBenigni"; directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci
1986:
English-language acting debut, Jim Jarmusch's "Down By Law"; first collaboration with writer-director Jarmusch
1986:
U.S. screenwriting debut, co-wrote (with Jarmusch and Steven Wright) and co-starred (with Wright) in "Coffee and Cigarettes"; also directed by Jarmusch
1991:
Directed and starred in the Italian comedy "Johnny Stecchino"; again co-starred with Nicoletta Braschi
1993:
American debut as a lead, Blake Edwards' "Son of the Pink Panther"
1994:
Feature producing debut, "The Monster"; also co-wrote, directed, and starred
1998:
Earned international acclaim for his tragicomedy "La Vita e Bella/Life Is Beautiful"; co-wrote, directed, and starred; film received seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor; became only the second person in Oscar history to direct himself to a Best Actor win
2002:
Returned to features as star and director of the live-action film "Pinocchio"
2005:
Starred in and directed "The Tiger and the Snow"; again co-starred with wife Nicoletta Braschi
2006:
Toured Italy with his one-man show "TuttoDante/Everything About Dante"
2008:
Made U.S. stage debut when he brought "TuttoDante" to America
2012:
Returned to features with a role in Woody Allen's romantic comedy "To Rome with Love"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"'My family is wonderful,' he said. 'It is composed of a lot of women. Three sisters, older than me, and a mother, older than me too. And my father was always looking for some job, so I was alone sleeping in the same bed with four women.' Pause. Punchline: 'And I never repeated this in my life.' Laughter." --From "Roberto Benigni Readies More Laughs for Export" by Alan Cowell, The New York Times July 19, 1992.

"Mr. Benigni relies, he said, on body movement and the pitch of his voice to make people laugh, regarding himself as a comedian from an older school, not a humorist. 'Buster Keaton never told a joke,' he said. 'A humorist, like Oscar Wilde--he wrote some good jokes. But I am not able to tell a joke.' Ask Mr. Benigni which comics he reveres most and, almost predictably, the answers include Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy." --From "Roberto Benigni Readies More Laughs for Export" by Alan Cowell in The New York Times, July 19, 1992.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Nicoletta Braschi. Actor. Co-starred in "Down By Law" (1986), "Johnny Stecchino" (1991), "The Monster" (1994) and "Life Is Beautiful" (1998); married in December 1991.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Luigi Benigni. Farmer, carpenter, bricklayer. Born c. 1918; was prisoner in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for two years (c. 1943-45); Benigni used his memories as basis for "La Vita E Bella/Life Is Beautiful".
mother:
Isolina Benigni. Fabric inspector. Born c. 1918.
sister:
Bruna Benigni. Textile worker. Born c. 1945.
sister:
Albertina Benigni. Flower shop owner. Born c. 1947.
sister:
Anna Benigni. Teacher's aide. Born c. 1948.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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