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Dan Brown Wants 'Life is Beautiful' Creator Roberto Benigni for 'Inferno'

Roberto Benigni - To Rome With Love - P 2012
Roberto Benigni from 'To Rome With Love'

The author behind "The Da Vinci Code," speaking at the Italian-language release of his latest book, said it would be an "honor" to cast the Tuscan Oscar winner in the film.

ROME – Dan Brown, the best-selling author behind blockbuster films The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, says he wants Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni in his next film, Inferno.

Brown spoke from Florence, where he appeared to promote the Italian translation of his newest novel, Inferno, based on the part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-Century epic poem, The Divine Comedy, with the same name. Inferno is set in Florence.

Benigni, whose 1997 film La vita e’ bella (Life is Beautiful) won three Oscars, is from the Tuscan city of Arezzo, just 40 miles south of Florence, and he is well known in Italy for his recitations of parts of The Divine Comedy in a one-man show called Tutto Dante (All Dante).

Though the film product is in its earliest stages, Sony Pictures has already thrown its weight behind the Inferno idea.

Asked about the film, Brown said it “would be an honor to have a great actor like Roberto Benigni in my next film.” He added, “I have seen some of his performances based on Dante’s work on YouTube and they are marvelous.”

Brown said he had not yet spoken to the Benigni camp about the idea, but that he would do so soon. A call to Benigni’s representatives seeking comment was not immediately answered.

Brown is not the only international figure who says he wants to make a film with Benigni in recent weeks: in April, three-time Cannes jury prize winning director Aki Kaurismäki, from Finland, said he would set his next film in Italy and would like it to star Benigni.

After earning worldwide attention with La via e’ bella, Benigni’s next project, his interpretation of Pinocchio, from 2002, was a critical and commercial disappointment. After that, the 60-year-old actor, director, and writer kept a relatively low profile until last year, when he was cast as an Italian who suddenly and inexplicably became famous in Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love. The film earned mixed reviews from critics, but Benigni’s performance was praised.

Twitter: @EricJLyman