.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in Italian. (May 2023) Click [show] for important translation instructions. View a machine-translated version of the Italian article. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Consider adding a topic to this template: there are already 3,006 articles in the main category, and specifying|topic= will aid in categorization. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Italian Wikipedia article at [[:it:Roberto Benigni]]; see its history for attribution. You should also add the template ((Translated|it|Roberto Benigni)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Roberto Benigni

Roberto Remigio Benigni

(1952-10-27) 27 October 1952 (age 71)
  • Actor
  • film director
  • screenwriter
  • comedian
Years active1970–present
(m. 1991)

Roberto Remigio Benigni Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI[1] (Italian: [roˈbɛrto beˈniɲɲi]; born 27 October 1952) is an Italian actor, comedian, screenwriter and director. He gained international recognition for writing, directing and starring in the Holocaust comedy-drama film Life Is Beautiful (1997), for which he received the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best International Feature Film. Benigni was the first actor to win the Best Actor Academy Award for a non–English language performance.

Benigni made his acting debut in 1977's Berlinguer, I Love You, which he also wrote, and which was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci. Benigni's directorial debut was the 1983 anthology film Tu mi turbi, which was also the acting debut of his wife, Nicoletta Braschi. He continued directing and also starring in the comedic films Nothing Left to Do But Cry (1984), The Little Devil (1988), Johnny Stecchino (1991), The Monster (1994), Pinocchio (2002), and The Tiger and the Snow (2005).

Benigni acted in the Jim Jarmusch films Down by Law, Night on Earth (1991) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003). He also acted in Blake Edwards' Son of the Pink Panther (1993), Woody Allen's To Rome with Love (2012), and Matteo Garrone's Pinocchio (2019).

Early life

Benigni was born on 27 October 1952 in Manciano La Misericordia (a frazione of Castiglion Fiorentino), the son of Isolina Papini (1919–2004), a fabric maker, and Luigi Benigni (1919–2004), a bricklayer, carpenter, and farmer.[2][citation needed] He has three sisters: Bruna (born 1945), Albertina (born 1947) and Anna (born 1948). He was raised Catholic and served as an altar boy;[3][4] later in his life he became an atheist,[5] but then resumed his interest in religious topics, such as the Ten Commandments and the Song of Songs, and finally returned to practicing Catholicism.[6]

His first experiences as a theatre actor took place in 1971, in Prato. During that autumn he moved to Rome where he took part in some experimental theatre shows, some of which he also directed. In 1975, Benigni had his first theatrical success with Cioni Mario di Gaspare fu Giulia, written by Giuseppe Bertolucci.

Benigni became widely known in Italy in the 1970s for a television series called Onda Libera, on RAI2, produced by Renzo Arbore, in which he interpreted the satirical piece The Hymn of the Body Purged (L'inno del corpo sciolto, a scatological song about the joys of defecation).[7] A great scandal for the time, the series was suspended due to censorship.[8] His first film was 1977's Berlinguer, I Love You (Berlinguer ti voglio bene), also by Bertolucci.

His popularity increased with L'altra domenica (1976–1979), another TV show of Arbore's in which Benigni portrayed a lazy film critic who never watches the films he's asked to review. Bernardo Bertolucci then cast him in a small speechless role as a window upholsterer in the film La Luna which had limited American distribution due to its subject matter.


Early roles

In 1980 he met Cesenate actress Nicoletta Braschi, who became his wife on 26 December 1991 and who has starred in most of the films he has directed.

In June 1983 he appeared during a public political demonstration by the Italian Communist Party, with which he was a sympathiser, and on this occasion, he lifted and cradled the party's national leader Enrico Berlinguer. It was an unprecedented act, given that until that moment Italian politicians were proverbially serious and formal. Benigni was censored again in the 1980s for calling Pope John Paul II something impolite during an important live TV show ("Wojtylaccio", meaning "Bad Wojtyla" in Italian, but with a somewhat friendly meaning in Tuscan dialect).

Benigni's first film as director was Tu mi turbi (You Upset Me) in 1983. This film was also his first collaboration with Braschi.

In 1984, he played in Non ci resta che piangere ("Nothing Left to Do but Cry") with comic actor Massimo Troisi. The story was a fable in which the protagonists are suddenly thrown back in time to the 15th century, just a little before 1492. They start looking for Christopher Columbus in order to stop him from discovering the Americas (for very personal reasons), but are not able to reach him.

Hollywood roles

Benigni with Giorgio Gaber in 1990

Beginning in 1986, Benigni starred in three films by American director Jim Jarmusch. In Down By Law (1986) (which in Italy had its title spelt "Daunbailò", in Italian phonetics[9]) he played Bob, an innocent foreigner living in the United States, convicted of manslaughter, whose irrepressible good humour and optimism help him to escape and find love. (The film also starred Braschi as his beloved.) In Night on Earth, (1991) he played a cabbie in Rome, who causes his passenger, a priest, great discomfort and a heart attack by confessing his bizarre sexual experiences. Later, he also starred in the first of Jarmusch's series of short films, Coffee and Cigarettes (2003).[citation needed]

In 1990, he was a member of the Jury at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival.[10]

In 1993, he starred in Son of the Pink Panther, directed by veteran Blake Edwards. Benigni played Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau's illegitimate son who is assigned to save the Princess of Lugash. The film bombed in the US, but was a hit in his homeland.[citation needed]

Benigni had a rare serious role in Federico Fellini's last film, La voce della luna ("The Voice of the Moon") (1989). In earlier years Benigni had started a long-lasting collaboration with screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami, for a series of films which scored great success in Italy: Il piccolo diavolo ("The Little Devil") with Walter Matthau, Johnny Stecchino ("Johnny Toothpick"), and Il mostro ("The Monster").[citation needed]

Life Is Beautiful

Benigni and wife Nicoletta Braschi at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival

Benigni is widely known outside Italy for his 1997 tragicomedy Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella), filmed in Arezzo, also written by Cerami. The film is about an Italian Jewish man who tries to protect his son's innocence during his internment at a Nazi concentration camp, by telling him that the Holocaust is an elaborate game and he must adhere very carefully to the rules to win. Benigni's father had spent three years in a concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen,[11] and La vita è bella is based in part on his father's experiences. Benigni was also inspired by the story of Holocaust survivor Rubino Romeo Salmonì.[12] Although the story and presentation of the film had been discussed during production with different Jewish groups to limit the offence it might cause, the film was attacked by some critics, who accused it of presenting the Holocaust without much suffering, while others argued that a comedy about such a subject was not appropriate. More favourable critics praised Benigni's artistic daring and skill to create a sensitive comedy involving Holocaust, a challenge that Charlie Chaplin confessed he would not have taken on with The Great Dictator had he been aware of the true horrors occurring in ghettos and concentration camps in Europe at the time.

In 1998, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards. At the 1999 ceremony, the film was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (which Benigni accepted as the film's director), Best Original Dramatic Score (the score by Nicola Piovani), and Benigni received the award for Best Actor (the first for a male performer in a non-English-speaking role, and only the third overall acting Oscar for non-English-speaking roles).

Overcome with giddy delight after Life Is Beautiful was announced as the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, Benigni climbed over and then stood on the backs of the seats in front of him and applauded the audience before proceeding to the stage. After winning his Best Actor Oscar later in the evening, he said in his acceptance speech, "This is a terrible mistake because I used up all my English!" To close his speech, Benigni quoted the closing lines of Dante's Divine Comedy, referencing "the love that moves the sun and all the stars." At the following year's ceremony, when he read the nominees for Best Actress (won by Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry), host Billy Crystal playfully appeared behind him with a large net to restrain Benigni if he got excessive with his antics again.[13] On a 1999 episode of Saturday Night Live, host Ray Romano played him in a sketch parodying his giddy behavior at the ceremony.

Beyond Life Is Beautiful

Benigni receiving a prize in Terni, February 2006

Benigni played one of the main characters in Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar as Detritus, a corrupt Roman provincial governor who wants to kill Julius Caesar, thereby seizing control of the Roman Republic.

As a director, his 2002 film Pinocchio, the most expensive film in Italian cinema, performed well in Italy, but it bombed in North America, with a 0% critics' score at Rotten Tomatoes. He was also named as the Worst Actor for his role as Pinocchio, in the 23rd Golden Raspberry Awards. The original Italian version received six nominations at the David di Donatello Awards, winning two, as well as winning one of the two awards it was nominated for at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.[14]

Benigni at the Sanremo Music Festival 2011

That same year, he gave a typically energetic and revealing interview to Canadian filmmaker Damian Pettigrew for Fellini: I'm a Born Liar (2002), a cinematic portrait of the maestro that was nominated for Best Documentary at the European Film Awards, Europe's equivalent of the Oscars. The film went on to win the prestigious Rockie Award for Best Arts Documentary at the Banff World Television Festival (2002) and the Coup de Coeur at the International Sunnyside of the Doc Marseille (2002).

In 2003, Benigni was honored by the National Italian American Foundation [it] (NIAF), receiving the Foundation's NIAF Special Achievement Award in Entertainment.

His film La tigre e la neve (The Tiger and the Snow, 2005) is a love story set during the initial stage of the Iraq War.

Benigni at the Berlin Film Festival 2020

On 15 October 2005, he performed an impromptu strip tease on Italy's most watched evening news program, removing his shirt and draping it over the newscaster's shoulders. Prior to removing his shirt, Benigni had already hijacked the opening credits of the news program, jumping behind the newscaster and announcing: "Berlusconi has resigned!" (Benigni is an outspoken critic of media tycoon and then former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.) The previous day, he had led a crowd of thousands in Rome on Friday in protest at the centre-right government's decision to cut state arts funding by 35 per cent.

On 2 February 2007, he was awarded the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. On 22 April 2008, the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa was conferred on him by the University of Malta, celebrated by a Settimana Dantesca including Benigni's first stage appearance at a university and the premiere of his performing with Dante scholar Robert Hollander.

In 2012, he starred in the Woody Allen film, To Rome with Love.

In 2019, he starred as Mister Geppetto in Matteo Garrone's 2019 adaptation of Pinocchio.


Benigni on the stage of TuttoDante in Padua, June 2008

Benigni is an improvisatory poet (poesia estemporanea is a form of art popularly followed and practised in Tuscany), appreciated for his explanation and recitations of Dante's Divina Commedia from memory.

During 2006 and 2007, Benigni had a lot of success touring Italy with his 90-minute "one-man show" TuttoDante ("Everything About Dante"). Combining current events and memories of his past narrated with an ironic tone, Benigni then begins a journey of poetry and passion through the world of the Divine Comedy.

TuttoDante has been performed in numerous Italian piazzas, arenas, and stadiums for a total of 130 shows, with an estimated audience of about one million spectators. Over 10 million more spectators watched the TV show, Il V canto dell’Inferno ("The 5th Song of Hell"), broadcast by Rai Uno on 29 November 2007, with re-runs on Rai International.

Benigni began North American presentations of TuttoDante with an announcement that he learned English to bring the gift of Dante's work to English speakers. The English performance incorporates dialectic discussion of language and verse and is a celebration of modernity and the concept of human consciousness as created by language.

Benigni brought "TuttoDante" to the United States, Canada and Argentina in the TuttoDante Tour between 2008 and 2009 with performances in San Francisco, Boston and Chicago. Benigni was feted in San Francisco at a special reception held by the National Italian American Foundation in his honour on 24 May 2009. Following his U.S. premiere Benigni performed his last presentation on 16 June 2009, in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he was awarded Honorary Citizenship of the City of Buenos Aires in a ceremony held at the Legislative Palace in homage to the notable Italian diaspora and culture in Argentina.[15]

In other media

Benigni is also a singer-songwriter. Among his recorded performances are versions of Paolo Conte's songs.


Benigni on stage (1990)

In 1999, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[16]

Honorary degrees

In addition to numerous film awards, Benigni has garnered honorary degrees from universities worldwide:


The Europe List, the largest survey on European culture, established that the top three films in European culture are

  1. Benigni's Life Is Beautiful[18]
  2. Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others[18]
  3. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie[18]



Year Title Role Notes
1977 Berlinguer, I Love You Mario Cioni Also writer
1979 Tigers in Lipstick Principal Segment: Una mamma
Womanlight Barman at Clapsy's
La Luna Upholsterer
I giorni cantati Professor
Seeking Asylum Roberto
1980 In the Pope's Eye Himself
1981 Il minestrone The Maestro
1983 Tu mi turbi Benigno Also director and writer
"FF.SS." – Cioè: "...che mi hai portato a fare sopra a Posillipo se non mi vuoi più bene?" Beige Sheikh
1984 Nothing Left to Do But Cry Saverio Also director and writer
1986 Down by Law Roberto English speaking film debut
Coffee and Cigarettes Roberto Short film
1988 The Little Devil Giuditta Also director and writer
1990 The Voice of the Moon Ivo Salvini
1991 Night on Earth Cab Driver Segment: Rome
Johnny Stecchino Dante Ceccarini / Johnny Stecchino Also director and writer
1993 Son of the Pink Panther Jacques Gambrelli
1994 The Monster Loris Also director, writer and producer
1997 Life Is Beautiful Guido Orefice Also director and writer
1999 Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar Lucius Detritus
2002 Pinocchio Pinocchio Also director and writer
2003 Caterina in the Big City Himself
Coffee and Cigarettes Roberto
2005 The Tiger and the Snow Attilio de Giovanni Also director and writer
2010 La commedia di Amos Poe Narrator Voice
2011 Pistachio - The Little Boy That Woodn't Head of Italy Voice
2012 To Rome with Love Leopoldo Pisanello
2019 Pinocchio Mister Geppetto


Year Title Role Notes
1972 Sorelle Materassi [it] Youth Episode: "Episodio 1"
1976–1977 Onda libera [it] Mario Cioni 4 episodes
Also writer
1979 Ma che cos'è questo amore [it] The Thinker 2 episodes
1982 Morto Troisi, viva Troisi! [it] Himself / Anonymous Childhood Friend Television film

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Project Result
1983 David di Donatello Best New Director Tu mi turbi Nominated
Nastro d'Argento Best New Director Nominated
1986 Best Actor Down by Law Won
Independent Spirit Award Best Male Lead Nominated
1988 David di Donatello Best Actor The Little Devil Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Director Nominated
Best Actor Nominated
Best Actor Johnny Stecchino Won
Best Screenplay Nominated
1998 Academy Award Best Actor Life Is Beautiful Won
Best Director Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
British Academy Film Award Best Actor in a Leading Role Won
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Nominated
Grand Prix – Cannes Film Festival Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Leading Actor Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Actor Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Director Nominated
David di Donatello Best Director Won
Best Actor Won
Best Screenplay Won
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing - Feature Film Nominated
European Film Award Best Actor Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role Won
Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
Nastro d'Argento Best Director Won
Best Actor Won
Best Screenplay Won
2002 David di Donatello Best Actor Pinocchio Nominated
Razzie Award Worst Actor Won
Worst Director Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
2005 Nastro d'Argento Best Actor The Tiger and the Snow Nominated
2019 Best Supporting Actor Pinocchio Won
David di Donatello Best Supporting Actor Nominated



  1. ^ "Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana". quirinale.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on 26 December 2008. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
  2. ^ Waxman, Sharon (1 November 1998). "EMBRACING 'LIFE' IN DEATH CAMPS". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 28 August 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2023.
  3. ^ Lipman, Steve (23 October 1998). "When Tragedy, Comedy Meet: Italian actor-director Roberto Benigni". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Is There Humor in the Holocaust? Roberto Benigni's bittersweet answer". Jewish Exponent. New York. 5 November 1998. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  5. ^ Bullaro, Grace Russo, ed. (1 January 2005). Beyond "Life is Beautiful": Comedy and Tragedy in the Cinema of Roberto Benigni. Leicester: Troubador Publishing. p. 27. ISBN 1-904744-83-4. Archived from the original on 29 May 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  6. ^ CNA. "'Life is Beautiful' actor Roberto Benigni meets the pope". Catholic News Agency. Archived from the original on 8 December 2022. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
  7. ^ Celli, Carlo (2001). The Divine Comic: The Cinema of Roberto Benigni. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-8108-4000-6.
  8. ^ "La storia della foto di Benigni e Berlinguer" [The story of Benigni and Berlinguer's photo]. Il Post (in Italian). 25 May 2012. Archived from the original on 22 June 2019.
  9. ^ Jarmusch, Jim (28 October 2019). "Film card". Torino Film Fest. Retrieved 18 January 2024.
  10. ^ "Berlinale: 1990 Juries". berlinale.de. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
  11. ^ Brinson, Claudia Smith (23 March 1999). "Live your life with exuberance, and happiness may come". The State. Columbia, SC. p. A10.
  12. ^ Squires, Nick (11 July 2011). "Life Is Beautiful Nazi death camp survivor dies aged 91". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  13. ^ Hilary Swank Wins Best Actress: 2000 Oscars. Oscars. 26 October 2010. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2021 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ Awards for Pinocchio at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata 25 December 2002.
  15. ^ "Roberto Benigni è stato nominato 'Huésped de Honor de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires'" [Roberto Benigni was appointed "Guest of Honour of the City of Buenos Aires"]. Un Benigni da Nobel (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  16. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated" (PDF). Palm Springs Walk of Stars. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2012.
  17. ^ "Convocation 2015: Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi receive honorary degrees from U of T". U of T news. Archived from the original on 29 May 2022. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  18. ^ a b c "The self-perception of Europeans in comparison with the perception of other countries". Europa-Liste/Europe List: On the search for a European culture. Goethe Institute. Archived from the original on 28 July 2013.