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Italian producer Gianluigi Braschi, the close Roberto Benigni collaborator who was nominated for an Oscar for “Life Is Beautiful” and became instrumental to the making of many other Benigni hit pics, died in Milan on Oct. 23 after a long illness. He was 45.

Braschi was a co-founder and managing director of Benigni’s Rome-based Melampo Cinematografica production shingle.

A native of the central Italian city of Cesena, Braschi was the brother of actress Nicoletta Braschi, who is Benigni’s wife. He learned the ropes working as a production assistant on Benigni’s 1991 gangster pic spoof “Johnny Stecchino” (Johnny Toothpick), produced by Cecchi Gori.

In 1994 Benigni and Nicoletta and Gianluigi Braschi founded Melampo in a savvy move to raise financing to self-produce Benigni’s works and retain a bigger piece of the pie. That year Gianluigi Braschi served as associate producer on Benigni’s “Il Mostro” (The Monster), a laffer about a homicidal sex maniac which was a huge hit.

“Life is Beautiful” was produced by Braschi in 1997 in tandem with producer Elda Ferri. Braschi and Ferri shared Oscar and BAFTA noms for Benigni’s triple Oscar-winning Holocaust-set tragicomedy. They both won a European Film Award and a David di Donatello. “Life,” which grossed $229 million worldwide, is Italy’s alltime biggest box office performer and among the top foreign films at the U.S. box office.

Braschi subsequently shepherded Benigni’s “Pinocchio,” in 2002, and “The Tiger and the Snow” in 2005— among the costliest and most succesful pics at the domestic box office this decade — working with Elda Ferri and with his sister Nicoletta.