Academy Award Actor Roberto Benigni To be Honored At Italiann American Gala in Washington,D.C


Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or


Academy Award-Winning Actor Roberto Benigni
Roberto Benigni 
Photo credit: M. Cattarinich, MC Photo International

(Washington, DC – July 1, 2003) Academy Award-winning actorRoberto Benigni will receive the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Year 2003 U.S./Italy Friendship Award at the Foundation’s 28th Anniversary Awards Gala, Saturday evening, October 25 at the Hilton Washington & Towers in Washington, DC. The NIAF gala will be attended by 3,100 prominent Italian American leaders in business, the arts, entertainment, sports and public service.

Individuals selected by the NIAF to receive the U.S./Italy Friendship Award are Italians who have created a greater bond between our two nations. Acclaimed Italian tenor and longtime NIAF supporter,Andrea Bocelli, is the most recent Italian artist to receive such an award at the NIAF gala in October 2000.

Joining Benigni as this year’s NIAF honorees are: Joseph Galli, president & CEO of Newell Rubbermaid Inc.; Larry W. Sonsini, president and CEO of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati; andThomas Tizzio, senior vice chairman of American International Group (AIG). Celebrity honorees will be announced later this summer.

Benigni is the first actor to win a Best Actor Oscar for a non-English speaking role in La Vita é Bella(Life is Beautiful), which also won Best Foreign-Language Film in 1998. His father’s wartime experiences served as the basis and inspiration for Life is Beautiful, which Bengini co-wrote with Vincenzo Cerami. During World War II, Benigni’s father was a prisoner at the Nazi’s dreaded Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for two years. Benigni and Laurence Olivier are the only two actors to have directed themselves in Oscar winning performances. Born in a small village in Arezzo, Tuscany, Benigni learned the Italian tradition of improvised song and poetry while in his teens and became part of Rome’s underground theater in the late 1960s. He is married to actress Nicoletta Braschi, whom he has appeared with in a number of films, including Johnny Stecchino and Life is Beautiful.

The Year 2003 NIAF Gala Dinner chairman is Dick Grasso, chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NIAF vice chairman. During the Gala Awards weekend, NIAF will also feature conferences, including “Children of the Greats,” exhibits, the traditional celebrity luncheon and auction, and a seminar on tourism. The Region of Molise is this year’s sponsoring region from Italy.

Dinner tickets begin at $350 per person based on table location. Attire: Black tie. Proceeds from the event will benefit the NIAF Scholarship and Education Programs. For tickets or sponsor information, contact Michael Sanzi at 202/939-3105 or or register on-line at