Married for 25 years, they first met in 1983. Roberto Benigni was making the movie Tu Mi Turbi and chose this unknown actress from Cesena to play Maria.
“There is a ‘before and after’ with her”, said Benigni. “Before her everything (in my life) was a joke: but comedy without a feminine is like a life half-lived, one you can’t imagine.”
Roberto Benigni was talking about his wife, Nicoletta Braschi.
“From then on, since she entered my life, we have done everything together like a theater company, it was her idea to give ourselves freedom by producing our own films”, he added. “She gave me truth. When I was flying, she brought me back to earth. I can’t imagine another face, another presence, another breath that isn’t hers.”
He says that she is always on the set with him, “Or rather, most of the time. The only time she wasn’t there with me is when she had the flu.”
In March of this year, Roberto Benigni was award a special David for his life’s work, and he said that he wasn’t going to thank his wife, Nicoletta, but share the David with her: I did it with her, for her, and thanks to her’
For Benigni’s part, he’s the only Italian man to receive an Oscar for Best Actor for starring in a foreign language film (La Vita È Bella), and he was a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.
Their most successful collaborations have been the 1998 Oscar Winning La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) (1998) and Johnny Stecchino in 1992, a comedy that cast Braschi as the girlfriend of a mobster (Benigni), and was a big hit in Italy.
In La Vita È Bella Benigni plays an Italian Jewish man who tries to protect his son when they are placed in a concentration camp by telling him that the Holocaust is game they are playing and trying to win. Benigni’s own father spent three years in a camp at Bergen-Belsen and the film is based partly on his father’s experiences.
Braschi plays his wife, who gets herself arrested too so that she can be near her husband and son.
Their last film together was La Tigre E La Neve (The Tiger And The Snow) in 2005, a “sleeping beauty” romantic comedy set in Rome and in Baghdad during the Iraq War. The film stars the couple with French actor Jean Reno and has a wonderful cameo in a dream sequence by singer Tom Waits.
In 2015 we were honored to host the couple in Toronto with a film retrospective (in collaboration with the Toronto International Film Festival), an exclusive event at The Rosewater Room and Q&As after the film.
Today is Nicoletta’s birthday! Auguri!