October 6, 2005

Italy eyes big release for Benigni film

By Peter Kiefer

ROME (Hollywood Reporter) - Italy is gearing up for an
unprecedented rollout of actor/filmmaker Roberto Benigni's
highly anticipated new film, "The Tiger and the Snow," his
first film since the universally panned "Pinocchio."

The romantic comedy, which stars Benigni, his wife
Nicoletta Braschi, French actor Jean Reno and American musician
Tom Waits, will have its official release on October 14 with
800 prints. But that number could come close to 1,000 when
accounting for regional theaters outside the purview of
national box office tracking agency Cinetel.

That will surpasses "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of
the King" (738 prints) and "Troy" (703 prints) as the largest
opening weekend release.

"Benigni is more important to the Italian market than even
U.S. films, he is a hit, a blockbuster," said Giancarlo Leone,
head of state-owned producer RAI Cinema, whose 01 Distribution
arm will release the film in Italy.

"Pinocchio," Benigni's 2002 follow-up to his Oscar-winning
1997 Holocaust heartwarmer "Life Is Beautiful," flopped
everywhere outside of his homeland. The $36 million "The Tiger
and the Snow" met a lukewarm response following the first press
screening in Rome on Tuesday.

In the film, Benigni plays Attilio De Giovanni, a poetry
teacher whose seemingly unrequited love for Braschi's character
(Vittoria) sends him on a harrowing, goodwill adventure to
Baghdad in the lead up to the Iraq War.

While it tackles the politically sensitive topic of the war
in Iraq, at the press conference following the film Benigni
stressed that polemics were not his goal.

"I realize that there are a number of modern documentaries
that go to the head. My film goes to the heart and hits the
heart entering into the conscience and the spirit against the
war," he said.

The film will be released in France in December but it
currently lacks distribution in the United States.

As for the unprecedented opening weekend release, Benigni
couldn't help but poke fun. "This film will come out in every
theater in Italy without exception," he joked. "We've even
talked to the pirates and we have a pirate distribution deal."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter