Real name: Roberto Benigni
Birthdate: October 27, 1952
Partner: Nicoletta Braschi
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Roberto Remigio Benigni, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (born October 27, 1952) is an Academy Award-winning Italian film and television actor, writer and director.
Benigni was born in Misericordia, a frazione of Castiglion Fiorentino, province of Arezzo (Tuscany) and raised in Manciano. In 1958 Roberto's family moved to Vergaio, near Prato. When he was fourteen he joined a circus, where he learned some gymnastics and pantomime.
His first experiences as a theatre actor took place in 1972, 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 met his first theatrical success with Cioni Mario di Gaspare fu Giulia, written by Giuseppe Bertolucci.
His popularity increased with another Arbore's show, L'altra domenica (1978), in which Benigni portrayed a lazy film critic who has never watched the movie he is called to speak of.
Benigni's first movie as director was Tu mi turbi (You upset me, 1983). On the set he met the Cesenate actress Nicoletta Braschi, who was to become his wife, and who has starred in most of the films he directed.
With the very popular comic actor Massimo Troisi, in 1984 he played in Non ci resta che piangere ("Nothing left to do but cry"), 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 Columbus in order to stop him discovering the Americas (although for very personal love reasons), but are not able to reach him.
Beginning in 1986, Benigni starred in three films by American director Jim Jarmusch. In Down By Law (1986) (which in Italy had its title spelled "Daunbailò", in Italian phonetics) he plays Bob, the innocent abroad, convicted for murder, whose irrepressible good humour and optimism help him escape and find love (also starring Braschi as his beloved.) In Night on Earth, (1991) he plays a cabbie in Rome, causing his passenger, a priest, great discomfort by confessing his revolting sexual experiences. Later, he also starred in the first of Jarmusch's series of short films, Coffee and Cigarettes (2003).
As a director, his 2002 film Pinocchio, one of the most costly films of Italian cinema, was coldly received by critics, and bombed in North America.
Benigni is also a well appreciated improvisatory poet (poesia estemporanea is a form of art popularly followed and practiced in Tuscany), and is appreciated for his recitations of Dante's Divina Commedia by memory.