Roberto Benigniactor, comedian
Birthplace: Tuscany, Italy
A popular Italian star in Italy, Benigni became an international celebrity with Life Is Beautiful, a comedy based on the ungainly premise of his father's two-year ordeal in a Nazi labor camp. A member of Rome's underground theater in the late 1960s, Benigni gained fame in his native country with his own TV series. America's mainstream filmgoers were introduced to him when he directed, wrote, and acted in the 1988 Walter Matthau vehicle, Little Devils. He also starred in two Jim Jarmusch movies, Down By Law (1986) and Night on Earth (1988). Miscast as the offspring of Inspector Clouseau in the failed Son of the Pink Panther (1992), he rebounded with Vita e Bella (1997) aka Life Is Beautiful (1998), which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in alongside his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, who also starred with him in Little Devils. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and Best Actor and Best Screenplay Oscars. Both occasions were made memorable by Benigni's effervescent acceptance speeches.