×

Oscar-Winner Roberto Benigni to Play Geppetto in Matteo Garrone’s ‘Pinocchio’

Roberto Benigni, who won an Oscar for best actor in 1999 for “Life Is Beautiful,” is set to return to the big screen after a seven-year hiatus to play Mastro Geppetto in a live-action version of “Pinocchio” to be directed by Matteo Garrone.

Shooting on the previously announced film is set to start in the first quarter of 2019 on location in Italy’s Lazio, Tuscany and Puglia regions.

The casting of Benigni as Geppetto in Garrone’s live-action adaptation of “Pinocchio” was announced Friday, just days after the news that Guillermo del Toro is to make a stop-motion animated musical version for Netflix of Carlo Collodi’s classic about a puppet that comes to life. In 2002, Benigni directed and played the lead role in his own live-action adaptation of “Pinocchio,” which flopped at the U.S. box office.

Benigni’s last directorial effort is “The Tiger and the Snow,” in 2005, in which he also starred. His last acting turn was a cameo in Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love” in 2012. In recent years, the beloved Italian showman has been active with his stage adaptation of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” which toured in Italy and internationally.

Garrone said in a statement that filming “Pinocchio” and directing Benigni were “two dreams come true in one film.”

Popular on Variety

“Collodi’s puppet and I have been chasing each other since I was a child, drawing my first storyboards,” he said. “As years passed, I have always felt something familiar in the story, as if Pinocchio had penetrated my imagination to such an extent that many have found traces of his adventures in my previous films.”

Garrone noted that for years he had also been pursuing Benigni, “who has amused and moved millions of spectators across the world.”

Benigni said: “A great character, a great story, a great director: Playing Geppetto directed by Matteo Garrone is one of the forms of happiness.”

The film is an international co-production between Italy and France, produced by Garrone’s Archimede Films, Rai Cinema and Jean Labadie’s Le Pacte, with Jeremy Thomas’ Recorded Picture Company. HanWay Films will be handling international sales. Rai Cinema will release the film in Italy, and Le Pacte in France.

Rai Cinema CEO Paolo Del Brocco noted that Italian pubcaster Rai’s film unit was “greatly honored to be part of the making of a film of such a high level” and called the fact that Benigni accepted to play Geppetto “a gift that will give us marvelous surprises.”

Gabrielle Stewart, HanWay’s managing director, said that Garrone’s re-imagining of one the most famous stories in the world will have “roots that run far deeper than the famous Disney animation.”

The animals and creatures in Pinocchio’s world will be created “with extraordinary realism” by Britain’s Mark Coulier, who won Oscars for makeup and hair for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Iron Lady.” Coulier will be working in tandem with VFX supervisor Rachel Penfold (“The Revenant,” “Cloud Atlas”).

More Film

  • Justin Simien Variety Creative Impact Honoree

    Variety's Creative Impact Honoree Justin Simien Returns to Sundance With 'Bad Hair'

    Justin Simien understands the value of a compelling story. Before he broke out with his award-winning indie satire “Dear White People” in 2014, the 36-year-old American filmmaker worked in publicity, doing gigs at studios like Paramount and Focus Features. It was this experience, working on massively successful hits such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Paranormal Activity,” [...]

  • A thermal sensor operated by the

    How the Wuhan Coronavirus Infected the Chinese Film Industry

    Just days ago, no one would have predicted that China’s most lucrative film-going season was about to be derailed by the escalating epidemic of a novel coronavirus that is now rapidly spreading through the country and beyond. Variety takes a look at how the box office in the world’s second largest film market has been [...]

  • Jayme Lawson bows Farewell Amor

    Meet Jayme Lawson: The 'Batman' Breakout Hits Sundance With 'Farewell Amor'

    Right before New Year’s Day, Jayme Lawson sat down to make a list. She wanted to outline all of the big changes that had transpired over the past twelve months. It was an impressive array of accomplishments. In May, Lawson graduated from Julliard. A month later, she was cast in her first indie movie, “Farewell [...]

  • 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Box Office: Movie

    Box Office: 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Racing Toward $40 Million Opening

    “Sonic the Hedgehog” is racing toward an opening in the $40 million range over Presidents’ Day weekend, early tracking showed on Thursday. Paramount Pictures decided in May to push “Sonic the Hedgehog” back three months, from Nov. 8 to Valentine’s Day, following fan criticism over the appearance and design of the titular blue character — [...]

  • Carrie Brownstein and St Vincent Variety

    Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent on Their Sundance-Bound Movie 'Nowhere Inn'

    As bizarre as much of the new film “Nowhere Inn” is, cowriters and costars St. Vincent — aka Annie Clark — and Carrie Brownstein are on somewhat familiar ground when it comes to playing with rock-star/media archetypes in deadpan fashion. They’d previously had satirical fun with some weirdly comedic short films they made to promote [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content