Two-time Oscar-winning actor-director Roberto Benigni will receive this year’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 78th Venice International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 1- 11, organizers announced Thursday.
Benigni, a superstar of Italian cinema for decades, achieved international success with his Holocaust dramedy Life Is Beautiful (1997), which won him Oscars for best actor and best international film.
“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 said in a statement.
Venice festival director Alberto Barbera compared Benigni to the all-time greats of the Italian performing arts, calling him “an unprecedented and unequaled figure of reference…. 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 as an engaging and sophisticated literary exegete.”
Benigni recently returned to box office success with Matteo Garrone’s live-action Pinocchio (2019), in which Benigni plays Geppetto, a role that won him a David di Donatello Award — Italy’s Oscar equivalent — as best supporting actor. His international roles have included several turns with Jarmusch in films such as Down by Law (1986), Night on Earth (1992) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), as well as turns in comedies the Son of the Pink Panther (1993) and Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love (2012).