Venice to Honor Roberto Benigni With Golden Lion for Career Achievement

The Venice Film Festival will honor Oscar-winning Italian actor/director Roberto Benigni with its 2021 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Benigni, whose “Life Is Beautiful” – which he co-wrote, directed and starred in – won three Oscars in 1999, including best actor, recently returned to the big screen playing Geppetto in Matteo Garrone’s live-action adaptation of “Pinocchio.”

“Pinocchio,” which was a box office champ in Italy in 2019, has been recently released in the U.S. by Roadside Attractions and is nominated for 2021 Oscars in the best costume design and makeup and hairstyling categories.

Benigni’s last directorial effort is “The Tiger and the Snow,” in 2005, in which he also starred. In recent years the beloved Italian showman has been very active with his stage adaptation of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” which toured in Italy and internationally.

In praising Benigni, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera noted that “few artists have equaled his ability to combine explosive comic timing, which is often accompanied by irreverent satire, with his admirable talent as an actor – at the service of great directors such as Federico Fellini, Matteo Garrone, and Jim Jarmusch,” and also called Benigni “an engaging and sophisticated literary exegete,” he said in a statament.

Benigni, in accepting, stated: “My heart is full of joy and gratitude. It is an immense honor to receive such an important recognition of my work from the Venice International Film Festival.”

Benigni, 68, was born in Misericordia (Castiglion Fiorentino, Arezzo) in Tuscany on October 27, 1952. He began his career in the early 1970s and soon became one Italy’s most beloved and popular actors, directors, and screenwriters, well-known and appreciated throughout the world. 

Besides “Life is Beautiful,” he has directed “Tu mi turbi” (“You Upset Me” 1983) and together with Massimo Troisi the popular “Non ci resta che piangere” (“Nothing Left to Do But Cry” 1984), which were the first of a series of box office hits followed by “Il piccolo diavolo” (1988), starring Walter Matthau and the first  movie he co-wrote with Vincenzo Cerami. 

Benigni has also been a presence in U.S. cinema acting with directors such as Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law”, 1986; “Night on Earth”, 1992; “Coffee and Cigarettes,” 2003); Blake Edwards (“Son of the Pink Panther”, 1993), and Woody Allen (“To Rome with Love” 2012). 

Barring complications the upcoming 78th Venice Film Festival is set to run as a fully physical edition Sept. 1-11.