Paolo started working as a screenwriter at a very early age and made his debut as a director in 1994 with Living It Up.
The film premiered at the 51st Venice Film Festival and won him both a Silver Ribbon and a David di Donatello as Best New Director.
His unique poetics soon emerged as characterized by melancholia, irony, and attention to the social substrate. The result is a tender yet pungent portrayal of Italy in the past thirty years. With August Vacation (1996), Hardboiled Egg (1997, Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival), and Kisses and Hugs (1999), he established himself as one of the most talented Italian directors of his generation. In 2003, Caterina in the Big City showed the frustration and hypocrisy of our time through the innocent eyes of a small-town girl.
In 2008, Paolo told the proletarian side of Italy, precarious and delusional, in his Her Whole Life Ahead. The film won five Golden Ciaks (including Best Film and Best Director), two Italian Golden Globes, and three Silver Ribbons, including Best Director.
While some of his films, like Hardboiled Egg and The First Beautiful Thing (Silver Ribbon for Best Director and Best Screenplay, and David di Donatello for Best Screenplay) are set in his hometown Livorno, in others he ventures further out in time and place. His period film Napoleon and Me (2006) is set in Italy in 1815, while in My Name Is Tanino (2002) tells modern America seen through the dazed eyes of a twenty years old. He’s on the road in the East Coast in The Leisure Seeker (2017), with Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren (Golden Globes nomination as Best Actress), in competition at the 74th Venice Film Festival, .
Every Blessed Day (2012) uses irony and sensitivity to tell the story of a young couple desperate to have a baby. In 2013, he organized the Torino Film Festival. The following year, he directed Human Capital, from the novel by Stephen Amidon. The film received nineteen nominations at the David di Donatello Awards (winning seven, including Best Film), six Silver Ribbons, four Golden Ciaks, and the Italian Golden Globe for Best Film. Like Crazy (2016), which premiered at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs in Cannes, is a shocking, moving story about two women confined in a psychiatric ward, who strive together to regain their freedom.
In 2018, he directed Magical Nights. Drawing from Virzì’s own Roman youth memories, the film evoked the myth of the Great Italian Cinema with passion and irreverence.
Overall, Paolo Virzì has won seven David di Donatello Awards and eight Silver Ribbons. He was twice shortlisted by the European Film Academy as Best European Director, both for The First Beautiful Thing and Human Capital, and he he twice represented Italy at the Oscars.
He enjoys drawing funny portraits of the people he meets and has three children: Ottavia, Jacopo and Anna.