Benigni, Roberto

(1952-)
   Actor and director. One of the most prominent of the new generation of actor-directors who emerged in the 1980s, Benigni had already begun to make his mark in the mid-1970s as a cabaret performer. Following the success of his lively comic monologues on national television, he made his first appearance on the big screen in Giuseppe Bertolucci's Berlinguer, ti voglio bene (Berlinguer, I Love You, 1977), which attempted to bring to the screen the character Cioni Mario that had been so popular on stage and on television. A tepid reception to the film prompted a retreat back to television, where he gained a following as the zany film critic on Renzo Arbore's L'altra domenica (The Other Sunday). He returned to the cinema in 1979, taking small parts in Costa-Gavras's Clair de femme (Womanlight, 1979) and Bernardo Bertolucci's La luna (Luna, 1979) before finding his mark as the lovable nursery school teacher in Marco Ferreri's Chiedo asilo (Seeking Asylum, 1980). He subsequently appeared in major roles in Sergio Citti's Il minestrone (1981), Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law (1986) and Night on Earth (1991), Federico Fellini's La voce della luna (The Voice of the Moon, 1990), and Blake Edwards's The Son of the Pink Panther (1993). By this time he was directing himself in his own films, beginning with Tu mi turbi (You Disturb Me, 1982), a four-episode film that toyed gently with religious themes, before teaming up with fellow comic actor and director Massimo Troisi, in Non ci resta che piangere (Nothing Left to Do but Cry, 1984). With Il piccolo diavolo (The Little Devil, 1988), Benigni initiated a fruitful long-term part-nership with screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami, who has collaborated on all of Benigni's subsequent films, including Johnny Stecchino (Johnny Toothpick, 1991) and Il mostro (The Monster, 1994).
   Already something of a national hero, Benigni achieved international fame with his La vita e bella (Life Is Beautiful, 1998), which broke box office records and received a plethora of awards, including three Oscars, nine David di Donatello, and the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Pinocchio (Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio, 2002) was less successful, both with critics and with audiences, but the more recent La tigre e la neve (The Tiger and the Snow, 2005), a romantic comedy set in war-torn Baghdad, has been better received, winning a Nastro d'argento for Best Original Story and David di Donatello nominations for Best Music and Best Special Effects.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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