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It's a tribute to Giannini's personality and screen presence that he's best remembered for a series of starring roles (mostly for director Lina Wertmuller) that cast him as dull-witted, naive, pompous, and/or slovenly characters. This charming, expressive Italian performer first studied acting at the Academia Nazionale in Rome, and made his screen debut in a small part in Fango sulla metropoli (1965). His association with Wertmuller dates back to the early 1960s, when he acted in her play "Two and Two Are No Longer Four." He appeared in supporting roles in Anzio (1968) and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969), among others, before Wertmuller chose him for the lead in Love and Anarchy (1973). He also starred in her first internationally acclaimed feature, The Seduction of Mimi (1974), playing an innocent stooge duped into an assassination plot. Giannini, by now the recipient of worldwide recognition, continued with Wertmuller in Swept Away (1975, as a coarse sailor marooned on a desert island with haughty Mariangela Melato) and Seven Beauties (1976, as a penny-ante lothario). This last film earned Giannini an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
Giannini was seen to advantage in Luchino Visconti's The Innocent (1976), opposite Jennifer O'Neill and Laura Antonelli, and in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Lili Marleen (1981). He also starred with Candice Bergen in Wertmuller's (disappointing) first Englishlanguage feature, A Night Full of Rain (1978). Efforts to broaden his appeal to Anglo audiences resulted in a few turkeys, including American Dreamer (1984), Fever Pitch (1985), and Blood Red (1989). Giannini was back in form, though, as the hapless nephew of scheming Vittorio Gassman in The Sleazy Uncle (1991), and as a deadpan police inspector in Once Upon a Crime (1992). He was also charming in the otherwise forgettable Francis Ford Coppola-directed sequence of New York Stories (1989).
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