Roberto Benigni is a modern actor, producer, director and screenwriter, who is often called the Italian Pierre Richard because of the similarities in appearance and role.
He makes the whole world laugh, and even managed to tell the fate of the prisoners of fascist concentration camps with humor. Benigny’s biography is the story of a difficult and thorny path to success: from a poor Tuscan village – to the stage of the best theaters and film sets of great directors.
Childhood and youth
Roberto Remigio Benigni was born in the village of Manciano la Misericordia under the commune of Castiglion Fiorentino on October 27, 1952. His mother, Izolina, was a dressmaker, and Luigi’s father worked as a laborer, wandering around the district in search of temporary work. In addition to Roberto, they had 3 more daughters – Bruna, Anna and Albertina.
Nine years before the birth of his son, Luigi landed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (during the Mussolini regime, tramps often got there on charges of espionage) and returned home exhausted and crippled. The family was so poor that it huddled in a hut without amenities.
“I would like to thank my parents, because they presented me with a good gift – poverty,” Roberto joked bitterly in an interview.
However, the Benigni couple was distinguished by a cheerful disposition and was able to relate to difficulties with humor: for example, Luigi talked about life in a concentration camp so that the children laughed to tears, not even knowing what tragic reality lies behind his father’s tales.
Roberto grew up weak and painful, but stood out among his peers with quick wits. At 13, the boy was sent to study in Florence, in the Jesuit seminary. It was an honor for a native of such a poor family, but after 2 months Roberto decided to escape, because his soul did not lie at all with sciences and religion.
The famous flood in Florence partly helped him escape – then, due to the strong spill of the Arno River, a real disaster broke out in the region, and the monks did not have time to search for a runaway pupil. Benigny joined the local circus and got a job as assistant illusionist.
By the age of 16, he settled down and nevertheless took up education, enrolling in the Technical Commercial Institute in Prato, where he mastered accounting and shorthanding in the company of almost only girls. There Roberto discovered the theater and soon left for Milan in search of a better life.
Benigni’s first stage work was the role in the play “The Naked King”. The debut was successful, and the young man went to the capital, where he began to participate in experimental productions as an actor and director. Colleagues first looked down on the country boy, but later discerned his giftedness and willingly accepted into their circle.
In 1975, Roberto first tried himself in reading comic monologues from the scene. The text of Cioni Mario di Gaspare fu Giulia was written for him by Giuseppe Bertolucci, the brother of a famous director, and the success of the young artist was impressive. After that, Benigny continued to play the role of political comedian. His monologues were ironic, witty, and sometimes provocative.
In 1977, the career of an Italian film actor began. The first role was the ambiguous character-lumpen in the film “Burlinguer, I love you.” On the set, Roberto had a chance to work with Marco Ferreri (“Wild Beds”), Bernardo Bertolucci (“Chowder”).
The shock for the actor was the acquaintance and subsequent collaboration with Federico Fellini:
“When I first saw his film, I left the cinema and decided to become … a lawyer. I thought it was impossible to create something as beautiful, ”Roberto said.
As an actor, Benigny became a real find for Jim Jarmusch, playing in 3 films that later became key in his directorial career. He also starred in the series “Free Wave”, “Life of Choni”, and the TV show “Another Sunday”.
Benigni’s directorial work begins in the 1990s. His paintings “Johnny Toothpick”, “Little Devil”, “You Bother Me” in his native Italy were commercially successful.
International recognition came to him in 1997 with the film “Life is Beautiful,” where Roberto also acted as screenwriter and lead actor. The young director managed to accommodate seemingly incomparable things in his picture: a plot based on the events of the Holocaust, and the features of modern comedy – a cheerful rogue hero and an optimistic title. The scenario was based on the same stories about the concentration camp that his father told little Roberto in childhood.
Soon an unusual picture conquered the whole world. The film has collected 3 Oscars, including for the acting, the Grand Prix of the Cannes Film Festival, the British Academy Prize and the Cesar Award. Veselchak and the joker Benigni met fame with all the Italian passion: when he was declared the best actor, he rushed to the stage on the backs of chairs, almost stepping on the movie stars sitting in front, fell on the knees of one of the ladies and did a somersault-mortal in the aisle, and at the ceremony in Cannes kissed the shoes of director Martin Scorsese.