Roberto Benigni (born October 27, 1952) is an Oscar-winning Italian film and television actor, writer and director.
Benigni is probably best known for his 1997 tragicomedy Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella), filmed in Cortona and Arezzo, also written by Cerami. The film is about an Italian Jewish man who tries to protect his son 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 two years in a concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, and La Vita è bella is based in part on his father's experiences. In 1998, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and Benigni personally won two of them: Best Foreign Language Film (awarded to the director) and Best Actor. The score by Nicola Piovani also won an Oscar. Famously, in the midst of being so giddy with delight, he climbed on the back of the seat for his procession to the stage and applauded the audience after he was told he had won one of his Oscars. The next year's ceremony, where he read the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actress, the host Billy Crystal playfully appeared behind him with a large net to restrain Benigni if he got excessive with his antics again.
Benigni also was one of the main characters in Asterix and Obelix Take On Caesar as Detritus, a corrupted Roman tax collector who wants to kill the Caesar and claim the throne of the Roman Empire.
As a director, his 2001's Pinocchio, one of the most costly films of Italian cinema, was coldly received by critics, and bombed in North America.
Benigni's latest film is La tigre e la neve (The Tiger and the Snow, 2005), about the Iraq War.
On October 15, 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 former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi). The previous day, he led a crowd of thousands in Rome on Friday in protest at the center-right government's decision to cut state arts funding by 35 percent.