Roberto Remigio Benigni (born October 27, 1952 in Castiglion Fiorentino, near Arezzo, Tuscany) is an Italian actor, comedian, screenwriter and director.
Benigni is most famous internationally for directing, writing and starring in the 1997 comedy-drama film Life Is Beautiful. The film presented a sensitive dramedy about The Holocaust, an artistic challenge that Charlie Chaplin would not have dared and Jerry Lewis chickened out of showing.
The film won three Academy Awards (Best Actor for Benigni, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score) and numerous other awards; to say the wins excited Benigni would be an understatement. In what is now considered one of the most memorable moments in Oscars history, he reacted to the film's second win by jumping on top of his seat and climbing over those of the people in front of him before bunny-hopping to the stage. He also kissed the feet of Martin Scorsese after the film won the Grand Prix at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, of which Scorsese served as jury president.
Unfortunately, Benigni would later squander his artistic reputation and Auteur License in 2002 with his pet project Pinocchio, which featured himself in the title role. The film became a critically derided Box Office Bomb, and after it being followed by another bomb, The Tiger and the Snow, his directorial career still hasn't recovered since. Ironically, he would appear in a much better received 2019 production of the story as Geppetto — a role most said he should have played in his own film.
Benigni has also written and performed the stand-up comedy show Tutto Dante, inspired by Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and the Tuscany tradition of improvisatory poetry, with much success in his native country.
- Berlinguer, I Love You (1977, also wrote) as Mario (debut film as actor and screenwriter)
- Tu mi turbi (1983, also wrote and directed) as Benigno (directorial debut)
- Non ci resta che piangere (1984, also wrote and directed) as Saverio
- Down by Law (1986) as Roberto
- The Little Devil (1988, also wrote and directed) as Giuditta, a playful and immature demon who annoys a priest played by Walter Matthau
- The Voice of the Moon (1990) as Ivo Salvini (the last film by Federico Fellini)
- Night on Earth (1991) as Gino the taxi driver
- Johnny Stecchino (1991, also wrote and directed) in a dual role as Dante Ceccarini, a school bus driver who falls in love with a gangster's moll, and Johnny Stecchino, the gangster in question, who the Mafia wants dead because he turned informant
- Son of the Pink Panther (1993) as Jacques Gambrelli (Inspector Clouseau's son)
- The Monster (1994, also wrote and directed) as Loris, a innocent man who is mistaken for a serial killer
- Life Is Beautiful (1997, also wrote and directed) as Guido
- Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar (1999) as Lucius Detritus
- Pinocchio (2002, also wrote and directed) as Pinocchio
- Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) as Roberto
- The Tiger and the Snow (2005, also wrote and directed) as Attilio de Giovanni
- To Rome with Love (2012) as Leopoldo Pisanello
- Pinocchio (2019) as Geppetto
Tropes in his works:
- Creator Couple: He has cast his wife Nicoletta Braschi in seven of the eight films he directed (she did not appear in the time-warp comedy Nothing Left to Do But Cry).
- The Danza: He has appeared as a character named Roberto in two Jim Jarmusch films — Down by Law and Coffee and Cigarettes.
- Dramedy: Two films that he directed fit in the genre, being comedy-dramas set in really troubled historical settings — Life is Beautiful with The Holocaust and The Tiger and the Snow with the 2000s war in Iraq.