Bernardo Bertolucci
Birth Date:
March 16, 1940
Birth Place:
Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Famous for:
Writer of 'The Last Emperor' (1987)
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The Last Emperor


“You know for American filmmakers, the Oscars is like a mystic thing. For me it was being in a mirror of my dreams when I was dreaming of Hollywood when I was an adolescent.” Bernardo Bertolucci

Italian film director and screenwriter Bernardo Bertolucci won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Golden Globe Awards in the same categories for his epic period biopic, “The Last Emperor” (1987), among other recognitions. Staring his career in Italy in early 1960s, Bertolucci's early films were critically praised, but not moneymaking. He eventually won both acclaim and box office success with the politically themed film “The Conformist” (1970), from which he also netted his first Academy Award nomination for his script. He gained additional recognition with his controversial film “Last Tango in Paris” (1972), from which he received both an Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Other films he has directed and/or written include Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man” (1981), “The Sheltering Sky” (1990), “Stealing Beauty” (1996), “Besieged” (1998) and “The Dreamers” (2004).

Bertolucci is now married to British writer and director Clare Peploe.

Viareggio Prize Winner

Childhood and Family:

Bernardo Bertolucci was born on March 16, 1940, in Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. He is the elder son of Ninetta, a poetry teacher, and Attilio Bertolucci, a poet, art historian, anthologist and film critic. His younger brother, Giuseppe Bertolucci (born February 27, 1947), is also a director and screenwriter. Initially wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, Bernardo had poems published in magazines when he was 12, and later won the honored Viareggio Prize for his first book of verse, “In Cerca del Mistero” (“In Search of Mystery”) (1962). In 1958, he attended the Faculty of Modern Literature of the University of Rome, but left without graduating in 1961 to pursue his other interest, films. Bernardo first became interested in films as a child as a result of attending frequent screenings with his father. He made his first two films, shorts about children, at age 15.

Bernardo has been married twice. He met first wife actress Adriana Asti while he worked as assistant director in “Accattone” (1961). After they divorced, Bernardo married second wife Clare Peploe in 1990.

Last Tango in Paris


Bernardo Bertolucci launched his career as an assistant director in “Accattone” (1961), directed by family friend Pier Paolo Pasolini. Following this, he dumped his dreams of becoming a poet and concentrated on films. After leaving his Literature studies, 21 year old Bertolucci made his feature directorial debut with “The Grim Reaper” (“La commare secca,” 1962), which he co-wrote with Pasolini and Sergio Citti. The film was acclaimed by international critics as a success by a major new talent. It was also in 1962 that Bertolucci won the Viareggio Prize for his first collection of poems, “In Search of Mystery .”

Bertolucci returned to the director's chair for his second feature, “Before the Revolution” (“Prima della rivoluzione,” 1964), a drama romance starring his first wife, Adriana Asti and Francesco Barilli. The film, which he also co-wrote, earned him recognition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964 though did not translate to box office success. Bertolucci then directed the documentary short “Il canale” (1966) and a three part documentary for Italian television called “La Via del Petrolio” (1967), about an Italian oil company in Iran. He also co-wrote the film “How to Win a Billion... and Get Away with It” (1967), directed by Gianni Puccini.

Bertolucci continued the political argument started in “Before the Revolution” with “Partner” (1968), an adaptation of Fyodor Dosteyevsky's novel, “The Double,” which he directed and co-wrote. The film also marked his first association with actress Stefania Sandrelli. The same year, he also co-wrote (with Dario Argento and Sergio Leone) for Leone's Western film, “ Once Upon a Time in the West,” which starred Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale. 1968 also saw him join the Italian Communist Party and would retain for a decade until he resigned. Bertolucci closed out the decade by directing and writing segment “Agonia” for the 1969 anthology film “Love and Anger” (“Amore e rabbia”), which also included works by Jean-Luc Godard (“L'Amore”), Carlo Lizzani (“L'indifferenza”), Pier Paolo Pasolini (“La sequenza del fiore di carta”) and Marco Bellocchio (“Discutiamo, discutiamo”). The film premiered at the 19th Berlin International Film Festival in 1969.

Eventually, Bertolucci rose to international prominence with the political drama “The Conformist” (“Il conformista”, 1970), with the screenplay he wrote based on the Alberto Moravia 1951 novel of the same name. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Stefania Sandrelli, the film brought him acclaim in the United States, and he was nominated for a 1972 Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, in addition to winning a 1972 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director. He also received the Interfilm Award – Recommendation, Journalists' Special Award and Golden Berlin Bear nomination at the 1970 Berlin International Film Festival and the Sutherland Trophy at the 1970 British Film Institute Awards for his efforts.

Also in 1970, Bertolucci directed co-wrote the drama/mystery “Strategia del ragno” (aka. “The Spider's Stratagem”), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August 1970. In the following year, he directed the documentary “ La salute è malata” and co-wrote the made for TV film “ L'inchiesta.”

Bertolucci returned to feature film directing with “Last Tango in Paris” (1972), a controversial romance/drama about a recent American widower who embarks on an anonymous sexual relationship with a young, soon to be married Parisian woman. He gained an Oscar nomination for Best Director, a Golden Globe Best nomination Director - Motion Picture, a DGA nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and a Silver Ribbon for Best Director (Regista del Miglior Film) for the film. It grossed over $96 million against a budget of $1.25 million. Despite widespread critical praise, Bertolucci earned a suspended prison sentence for blasphemy in his native Italy and lost the right to vote for five years. “Last Tango in Paris” was banned in Italy for a number of years.

Following several years hiatus, Bertolucci made his return with the epic movie “1900,” which he directed and also co-scripted (with brother Giuseppe Bertolucci and editor Franco Arcalli). Starring Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Dominique Sanda, Donald Sutherland, Alida Valli, and Burt Lancaster, the film was screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, nut was not entered into the main competition. He picked up a Bodil for Best European Film (Bedste europæiske film) for “1900.” Three years later, he directed and co-wrote (with his brother Giuseppe Bertolucci and future wife Clare Peploe) the film “Luna” (, “La Luna”1979), concerning the troubled life of a teenage boy and his relationship with his parents, including an incestuous relationship with his mother. The film received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama for Jill Clayburgh's portrayal of Caterina Silveri.

Entering the 1980s, Bertolucci helmed and penned “Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man” (1981), produced by his cousin, Giovanni Bertolucci. The film brought him Palme d'Or nomination At the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. He made his producing debut with “Sconcerto Rock” (1982), directed by Luciano Manuzzi, and subsequently added his producing credit with “ Io con te non ci sto più” (also 1982), directed by Gianni Amico. He next directed the documentaries “ L'addio a Enrico Berlinguer” (1984) and “Cartoline dalla Cina” (1985, TV).

After silence for about four years, Bertolucci returned to the film industry with his first English language debut, “ The Last Emperor” (1987), an epic tale of the deposed last emperor of China, starring John Lone as Puyi. Independently produced by Jeremy Thomas, the film won nine Academy Awards for Best Picture (Jeremy Thomas), Best Director (Bertolucci), Best Art Direction (Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Bruno Cesari, Osvaldo Desideri), Best Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro), Best Costume Design (James Acheson), Best Film Editing (Gabriella Cristiani), Best Original Score (Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, Cong Su), Best Sound (Bill Rowe, Ivan Sharrock) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mark Peploe & Bernardo Bertolucci), in addition to another 41 wins & 13 nominations. At the box office, the film grossed $43,984,230 against a budget of $23.8 million. Adding to his two Oscars, Bertolucci also picked up a number of awards and nominations for the film, including Golden Globes for Best Director - Motion Picture and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, a DGA Award, a BAFTA for Best Film, a César for Best Foreign Film, David di Donatellos for Best Director and Best Screenplay, Guild of German Art House Cinemas' Guild Film Award – Gold for Foreign Film, a Kinema Junpo for Best Foreign Language Film, European Film's Special Prize of the Jury, a Hochi Film for Best Foreign Language Film, a Silver Ribbon for Best Director, and Sant Jordi's Audience Award for Best Foreign Film.

After directing segment “Bologna” of the 1989 documentary “12 registi per 12 città,” Bertolucci directed and co-scripted (with mark Peploe) the film adaptation of “The Sheltering Sky” (1990), starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich. The British/Italian drama received positive reviews from critics, and earned Bertolucci a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture and a Silver Ribbon nomination for Best Director. Three years later, he directed Keanu Reeves, Bridget Fonda and Chris Isaak in “Little Buddh” (1993), which was scripted by Mark Peploe and produced by Jeremy Thomas. The film received mixed reviews and was only an average box office success. Isaak was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst New Star. Bertolucci started moving away from the epic format with “Stealing Beauty” (1996), starring Liv Tyler, Joseph Fiennes and Jeremy Irons. The film earned him Palme d'Or nomination and a David nomination for Best Director. In 1998, Bertolucci directed and co-wrote (with wife Cale Peploe) the film “Besieged” (1998), starring Thandie Newton and David Thewlis. For his work, he netted a Golden Globe Italy for Best Film, a Silver Ribbon nomination for Best Screenplay, a Silver Condor nomination for Best Foreign Film, a Chlotrudis nomination for Best Director, a Cinema Brazil Grand Prize nomination for Best Foreign Film, and a David nomination for Best Director.

In 2001, Bertolucci produced and co-wrote the comedy/romance film “The Triumph of Love,” directed by his wife Clare Peploe. He then directed and wrote segment “Histoire d'eaux” of “ Ten Minutes Older: The Cello” (2002). In 2003, he helmed Michael Pitt, Eva Green and Louis Garrel in the British/French/Italian film “The Dreamers,” scripted by Gilbert Adair, based on his own novel “The Holy Innocents,” and produced by Jeremy Thomas. The film brought him a European Film's Audience Award nomination for Best Director, a Silver Ribbon nomination for Best Director and a Golden Globe Italy nomination for Best Director. Stating about making the film, he said, “It gave me the chance of visiting a moment that I really loved a lot, the late 1960s. It was a kind of magic moment in many senses. There was a fantastic projection of the future, of utopias, which were very noble in some ways. I remember being young in the 1960s. We had a great sense of the future, a great big hope. This is what is missing in the youth today. This being able to dream and to change the world.”

Bertolucci is set to return to Italian cinema with the drama “Me and You,” which he directed and co-wrote. The film will be released in Italy in 2013.


  • Venice Film Festival: Career Golden Lion, 2007

  • Golden Globes (Italy): Career Golden Globe, 2000

  • Golden Globe (Italy): Best Film (Miglior Film), “Besieged,” 1999

  • National Board of Review: Freedom of Expression Award, “The Last Emperor,” 1998

  • For releasing the director's cut.

  • Camerimage: Special Award, Best Duo: Director – Cinematographer, Shared with:

  • Vittorio Storaro, 1997

  • Camerimage: Special Award, Film Direction with a Special Visual Sensitivity, 1997

  • Locarno International Film Festival: Leopard of Honor, 1997

  • Venice Film Festival: Pietro Bianchi Award , 1997

  • Guild of German Art House Cinemas: Guild Film Award – Gold, Foreign Film (Ausländischer Film), “The Last Emperor,” 1989

  • BAFTA: Best Film, “ The Last Emperor,” 1989

  • Kinema Junpo: Best Foreign Language Film, “The Last Emperor,” 1989

  • César: Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Oscar: Best Director, “ The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Oscar: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture, “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Golden Globe: Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • David di Donatello: David, Best Director (Migliore Regista), “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • David di Donatello: David, Best Screenplay (Autore della Migliore Sceneggiatura), “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Directors Guild of America (DGA): Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • European Film : Special Prize of the Jury, “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • For the cultural and economic achievements of the film.

  • Hochi Film: Best Foreign Language Film, “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Director (Regista del Miglior Film Italiano), “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Sant Jordi : Audience Award, Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera), “The Last Emperor,” 1988

  • Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Director (Regista del Miglior Film), “Last Tango in Paris,” 1988

  • Bodil: Best European Film (Bedste europæiske film), “1900,” 1977

  • National Society of Film Critics (NSFC): Best Director, “The Conformist,” 1972

  • Berlin International Film Festival: Interfilm Award – Recommendation, “The Conformist,” 1970

  • Berlin International Film Festival: Journalists' Special Award, “The Conformist,” 1970

  • British Film Institute : Sutherland Trophy, “The Conformist,” 1970

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Bernardo Bertolucci to lead the jury at Venice Film Festival
SP_COP - May 09, 2013 -
Oscar-winning Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has been appointed the head of the 2013 Venice Film Festival jury.The Last Tango in Paris filmmaker will front a panel of judges, which will decide t...
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