Paolo Villaggio (30 December 1932 - 3 July 2017) was an Italian actor, voice actor, writer, director and comedian. He is noted for the characters he created with paradoxical and grotesque characteristics: Professor Kranz, the ultra-timid Giandomenico Fracchia, and the obsequious and meek accountant Ugo Fantozzi, perhaps the favourite character in Italian comedy. He authored several books, usually of satirical character. He also acted in dramatic roles, and appeared in several movies.
Paolo Villaggio was born in Genoa, to Ettore Villaggio (1905–1992), a surveyor originally from Palermo, and Maria, originally from Venice, a German-language teacher. Paolo had a twin brother, Piero, who taught at the University of Pisa.
Villaggio went to high school at Liceo ginnasio Andrea Doria, then started studying Law at the university, but never completed his degree. His jobs included being a clerk for the Italsider steel works, which inspired his character Ugo Fantozzi. Maurizio Costanzo discovered his artistic potential and, in 1967, he advised Villaggio to play in a cabaret in Rome.
From there, Villaggio was hired for the TV show Quelli della domenica (The Sunday guys), in which Fantozzi made his first appearance, introduced his characters, the aggressive "Professor Kranz" and the hypocritical "Giandomenico Fracchia"
After his television experience, Villaggio started writing, for the magazines L'Espresso and L'Europeo, short stories featuring accountant Ugo Fantozzi, a man with a weak character, dogged by misfortune and by the "mega-director" of the "mega-company" where he works. In 1971, the publishing house Rizzoli released the book Fantozzi, a collection of these stories, which sold over a million copies. The first book received the Gogol Prize in Moscow and led to his 1975 appearance in the film Fantozzi, directed by Luciano Salce. The film's success led to a sequel, Il secondo tragico Fantozzi, with the same director in the following year, in which Fantozzi delivered his most famous line: "Per me ... La Corazzata Kotiomkin [sic] ... è una cagata pazzesca", or roughly "For me The Battleship Kotemkin [sic] is an unbelievable load of crap"
Villaggio has played in numerous comedies. He has been directed by Federico Fellini (La voce della luna, 1990), with Roberto Benigni), Lina Wertmüller (Io speriamo che me la cavo, 1992), by Ermanno Olmi (The Secret of the Old Woods, 1993), by Mario Monicelli (Cari fottutissimi amici, 1994), and by Gabriele Salvatores (Denti, 2000).
Villaggio continued writing while acting in films. He moved to the Mondadori publishing house in 1994. He published Fantozzi saluta e se ne va (1994–1995; "Fantozzi Says Goodbye and Leaves"), Vita morte e miracoli di un pezzo di merda ("Life, Death and Miracles of a Piece of Shit", 2002), 7 grammi in 70 anni ("7 Grammes in 70 Years", 2003) and his latest, Sono incazzato come una belva ("I'm Fucking Mad as a Beast") in 2004.
He also acted in stage plays, playing Arpagone in L'Avare of Molière in 1996. In 1996 he also led the satirical news bulletin Striscia la notizia (broadcast on Canale 5), together with Massimo Boldi. More recently, he participated in the television fiction Carabinieri, in which he played the role of a tramp who often helped the police to solve crimes. Villaggio was also a lyricist. With fellow Genoan Fabrizio De André, he wrote two songs, "Carlo Martello torna dalla battaglia di Poitiers" ("Charles Martel returning from the Battle of Poitiers") and "Il fannullone" ("The Loafer").