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First Look at Roberto Benigni as Geppetto in Matteo Garrone’s ‘Pinocchio’

HanWay Films has released a first-look image of Oscar-winning actor/director Roberto Benigni as Mastro Geppetto in the live-action version of “Pinocchio,” directed by Matteo Garrone, which has started shooting in Italy.

Garrone’s ambitious pic, which will mark Benigni’s return to the big screen after a seven-year hiatus, started principal photography March 18, with an 11-week shoot planned in Tuscany, Puglia, and the Lazio region around Rome. 

Benigni, who won an Oscar for best actor in 1999 for “Life Is Beautiful,” which he also directed, last appeared in 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.

News last October of Benigni’s casting to play Geppetto in Garrone’s “Pinocchio” came shortly after the announcement that Guillermo del Toro is making a stop-motion animated musical version for Netflix of Carlo Collodi’s classic about a puppet that comes to life. Del Toro has said his adaptation of the children’s classic will be set in Italy during the 1930s, when Fascism was on the rise, and that it will not be a family-friendly film.

Garrone, who is known for dark films such as gritty crime movie “Gomorrah,” has said that bringing “Pinocchio” to the screen is a dream he’s had since childhood and that his adaptation will be faithful to the original book by Collodi.

“I don’t know how dark it will be,” Garrone told Italian news agency ANSA, noting that he “would certainly like children to be part of the audience.”

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.

Other cast members in Garrone’s “Pinocchio” will include local stars Gigi Proietti as The Cat and Rocco Papaleo as The Fox.

Marcello Fonte, who won the best actor prize in Cannes last year as protagonist of Garrone’s “Dogman,” has been cast as The Parrot. Earlier this week “Dogman” swept Italy’s David Awards, the country’s top film prizes, scoring nine trophies.

Garrone’s “Pinocchio” 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 and Leone Film Group.

HanWay Films will be handling international sales. Rai Cinema will release the film in Italy, and Le Pacte in France.

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