After a long battle with diabetes, Italy’s favorite comic Paolo Villaggio died Monday from complications at the age of 84.
Villaggio’s children surrounded their beloved comic father when he passed away on Monday the 3rd of July, in Italy’s capital of Rome. Elisabetta, Villaggio’s daughter, announced his death in a touching message on Facebook: “Bye Dad, you are now free to fly again.”
Italy will be in mourning for one of the greatest comedians their country has ever known. Villaggio triggered an affinity within the hearts of working Italians with his character’s portrayal of the hopes and fears associated with the Italian dream of a “job for life” in an office. He thrilled audiences with his unique interpretation of satire and irony and hilarious slapstick routines.
Villaggio played many beloved characters; however his memorable was accountant Ugo Fantozzi. Fantozzi was first introduced to the Italian public in a series of short stories for the magazines L’Europeo and L’Espresso. The popularity of these stories attracted the attention of publishers, and Villaggio collated them into a book that would not only sell millions of copies worldwide. It would also win for him the famed Russian Gogol Prize.
Subsequently, the popularity of his character led to 10 films starring Villagio as Fantozzi. Following on from his success with Fantozzi, Villagio created further lovable characters and went to star in many beloved Italian movies. These were not just in the comedy genre but he also starred in many serious films. Villagio also enjoyed a successful career on stage and continued working as an author. He even wrote two songs with famous Italian folk musician Fabrizio De André.
Exceptional acting talent and comedic genius
It wasn’t only Fantozzi that the Italians adored. Villaggio brought to life the timid Giandomenico Fracchia and the sadistic and oppressive Professor Kranz. Indeed, Villaggio truly achieved greatness in his lifetime and revealed an exceptional acting talent, as well as comedic genius. For this, the industry honored him at the 49th Venice Film Festival in 1992, when he received a Golden Lion Career Award.
Most recently, Villaggio had a recurring role as a tramp in Italy’s hit television show Carabinieri. However, the past decade saw him slow down due to his deteriorating health. Friends of Villaggio feel disbelief at the passing of the comic. They lament the loss of a man whom they describe as being lovable and sensitive.
Italy’s Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni tweeted a fond memory and farewell to the revered Italian comedian: “Remembering Paolo Villaggio, an extraordinary comedic talent that taught generations of Italians to recognize their quirks.”
A memorial will be set up in the capital on Wednesday. Following this will be a ceremony at the famed Casa Del Cinema.