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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 12:45 GMT
Oscar hope for Benigni's Pinocchio
Roberto Benigni in Pinocchio
Benigni directs and stars in the film
Roberto Benigni's version of Pinocchio has been chosen as Italy's candidate for best foreign language film at next year's Academy Awards.

Benigni won the category in 1999 with his Holocaust fable Life is Beautiful.

His new movie, based on Carlo Collodi's 1880 classic The Adventures of Pinocchio, tells the story of a naughty puppet that transforms himself into a responsible little boy.

Benigni directs the film and stars as the wooden puppet, while his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, plays The Blue Fairy.

Nicoletta Braschi in Pinocchio
Blue Fairy: Nicoletta Braschi
"Naturally I was hoping to be Italy's choice," Benigni was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.

"These are beautiful things. And when it comes to prizes and games, I roll around in them."

Benigni warmed millions of hearts when he clambered over chairs and kissed members of the audience on his way to collect the award for Life is Beautiful.

At the time he said he wanted to "kiss everybody".

Lukewarm reviews

Benigni's version of Pinocchio broke the all-time Italian box office record for an opening weekend when it was released.

More than 1.1m people flocked to see it, despite lukewarm reviews from critics who described it as boring and unimaginative.

Benigni leaves for the US next week to promote the film, which opens there on Christmas Day.

The Academy Awards jury will announce the five foreign language nominees on 11 February.

The Oscar ceremony, meanwhile, is scheduled for 23 March.


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