Ugo Fantozzi (also known as accountant Ugo Fantozzi) is an Italian literary and film character, created and played by writer and actor Paolo Villaggio, whose stories are narrated in a successful series of tales and films written and acted by Villaggio himself.
The first book of the character’s stories, “Fantozzi” (1971), sold over a million copies, whilst the first film in the series, “Fantozzi” (1975), was included in the list of 100 Italian films to be saved; to mark forty years since the character’s big-screen debut, in 2015, the first two films were restored and re-released in cinemas. The character, well-known as a depiction of the inept man and unfortunate victim of arrogance, came into the collective imagination thanks to his grotesque attitude of psychological subordination to power and as an example of the everyman oppressed by society and in constant search of redemption, “the prototype of the wretch: the quintessential nobody”, as Villaggio himself defined him.
Fantozzi was the surname of a colleague with whom Villaggio had worked in a company.
The film of Fantozzi
The first film, Fantozzi, came out in 1975 and was based on the first two books on the character, directed by Luciano Salce. In the following decades, a legend persisted that said that initially, Villaggio had decided to play the character that he himself had created only after better-established colleagues (unlike the Genoese actor, who was then still relatively unknown in the film industry) had already refused, such as Ugo Tognazzi and the up-and-coming Renato Pozzetto; a version of the facts long endorsed by Villaggio himself, but finally debunked by him and motivated by the simple intent of increasing interest in his project and the lead actor. The film was a great success, so much so that it spawned one of the longest-standing sagas of Italian cinema: nine more instalments would later follow, the second directed once again by Salce, the third to ninth by Neri Parenti and the last, “Fantozzi 2000 - La clonazione”, by Domenico Saverni.