Italo thesp has ‘Tiger’ by the tail

Benigni pic to get wide release

An exceptionally diplomatic Roberto Benigni began tubthumping his Iraq war-set “The Tiger and the Snow” at the pic’s press preview here Tuesday, 10 days before it’s due to roll out on 900 screens in what’s touted as Italy’s widest release.

Benigni stars in the E30 million ($35.7 million) romantic tragicomedy as a lovestruck poet in Baghdad whose pursuit of a woman, played by his wife and pic’s producer, Nicoletta Braschi, at the outset of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 becomes a personal battle against adversity.

“There is a very, very strong anti-war sentiment in this movie,” the Italo helmer-thesp told a packed press conference. “Yet there is no wish to cast judgment on the American soldiers.”

Produced by his Melampo shingle, Benigni’s ninth self-directed pic rolls out Oct. 14 via RAI Cinema’s 01 distribution arm on nearly a third of the country’s screens. Pic was shot in Italy and Tunisia.

Cast includes Gallic star Jean Reno as an Iraqi poet and Tom Waits as himself, performing a song he wrote for the pic.

Script is penned by Benigni with regular co-writer Vincenzo Cerami. Score is by Nicola Piovani, who won one of the three Oscars scooped up by Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful” in 1999.

“Tiger” will be released in France by Pathe on Dec. 14. Melampo expects to sell North American rights at November’s American Film Market. All other international sales are being handled by Focus Features, which is finalizing several deals, Braschi said.

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