Tributes paid to actor Paolo Villaggio, dies aged 84

ROME- Paolo Villaggio was one of Italy’s most iconic actors, writers and directors of his time whose unusual style of comedy endeared him to the hearts of the Italian public.

 Born in Genoa in 1932 to a Sicilian father and a Venetian mother, Villaggio worked in a factory until he had a break in the 1960s as a cabaret artist. He then worked in television, penned a series of short stories that satirised the habits and mentality of Italy’s lower middle classes and shot comedy films with some of Italy’s great directors including Federico Fellini, Ermanno Olmi and Mario Monicelli. His satire poked fun at the average man; the audience were invited to laugh at themselves instead of at the powerful elite, as with comedians such as Dario Fo, and this made Paolo Villaggio unique for his time.

One of his most celebrated characters was the bumbling bookkeeper Fantozzi, the anti-hero of the lower-middle class whose comedy focused on his mishaps in his work and family life He also played the extravagant trickster Professor Kranz in the television series Quelli della Domenica (The Sunday Ones) and the excrutiatingly shy and awkward Giandomenico Fracchia who became a reccuring character for Villaggio. He won the David di Donatello for Best Actor in La Voce della Luna by Federico Fellini in 1990 and a Nastro d'Argento for Best Actor in The Secret of the Old Woods in 1994. He has won the Leone d'Oro in 1992 and David di Donatello in 2009 for Career and received the title of Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Republica Italiana from Presidency of the Ministry Council in 1995. 

His burial chamber lay in State at Rome city hall on Wednesday morning where hundreds of fans paid their respects. Later on Wednesday afternoon, his family have scheduled a non-religious burial at La Casa del Cinema (The House of Cinema) in Rome. He had previously said jokingly to his children “If I must have a funeral in a church, I want it at San Pietro (St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican)”.

Tributes to Paolo Villaggio have poured in since Monday. Premier Paolo Gentiloni recognised him as an “extraordinary comic talent who taught generations of Italians to recognize their mannerisms”. Oscar-winning comic actor and director Roberto Benigni, who appeared in Federico Fellini’s La Voce della Luna alongside Villaggio, called him “the greatest clown of his generation”. He said “Fantozzi represents us all, humiliates us and corrects us; with him all anonymous people found their Lord”.  

On Monday 3rd July, Villaggio died aged 84 at Paideia private clinic in Rome, where he was being treated since the start on June. The actor died from complications with his long-standing struggle with diabetes. Villagio was married to wife Maura Albites for 63 years, with whom he had two children, Elisabetta and Pierfrancesco. 

Born: December 30, 1932. Died: July 3, 2017.