She died at the age of 96 Irene Papas, one of the most important and popular Greek actresses of her generation. The Greek actress and singer born in Chiliomodi, a village near Corinth, has built a 50-year career, during which she has starred in more than 70 films and received international recognition through award-winning films such as The cannons of Navarone And Zorba the Greek. In 2018 it was announced that Papas had suffered from Alzheimer’s for five years, the actress has since retired to private life.
Papas won Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival for Antigone and by the National Board of Review for The Trojans. His lifetime achievement awards include the 1993 Golden Arrow Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival and a 2009 Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.
Irene Papas was born Irene Lelekou was born on September 3, 1926 to Eleni Prevezanou, a teacher, and Stavros Lelekos, a classical theater teacher at the Sofikós School in Corinth. Fascinated by the theater since her childhood, galeotto was a traveling theater that visited her village to stage Greek tragedies. At the age of 15, Papas began attending the Royal School of Dramatic Art in Athens, taking dancing and singing lessons. The actress during her school career rebelled against the style of acting supported by the school, which she considers outdated and for this reason she is forced to repeat a year, but she finally manages to graduate in 1948.
Irene Papas is discovered and launched in Greece by director Elia Kazan. His first film work dates back to 1948, a small role in fallen angels by Nikos Tsiforos. In 1952 he distinguished himself by playing in The dead city by Frixos Iliasis, the film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, where Papas found himself in the spotlight of the international press, a showcase that opened up a parallel career as a model. Papas also attracted the attention of American producers who made his Hollywood debut first with a small role in the b-movie Algiers Mission (1953) followed by Female Lead in Western The law of the halter (1956) by Robert Wise, alongside James Cagney.
Papas was a prominent figure in the cinematographic transpositions of ancient tragedies, playing the main roles in Antigone (1961) by George Tzavellas and Electra (1962) by Michael Cacoyannis, her powerful portrayal of the doomed heroine solidified her star status and also revived her Hollywood career with roles in classics such as The cannons of Navarone (1961) by J. Lee Thompson and Zorba the Greek (1964) by Michael Cacoyannis, this last film despite its success was not a positive period for Papas. The actress of this period remembers not having worked for 2 years after “Elettra”, despite the awards and praise, and being unemployed for 18 months after “Zorba”, the actress earning only 10 000 dollars.
The 1960s would see Papas in other American productions such as Yellow in Crete (1964) by James Neilson, Brotherhood (1968) by Martin Ritt and Anna of a Thousand Days (1969) by Charles Jarrot. Papas will also play Penelepe in the TV series The Odyssey (1968), Elena in Trojan horses (1971) alongside Katharine Hepburn and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia (1977), both films directed by veteran Michael Cacoyannis.
Papas was fluent in Italian, this allowed him to star in several Italian films, among which we remember One of these (1953) by Aldo Fabrizi, The unfaithful (1953) by Steno and Mario Monicelli, Vortex by Raffaello Matarazzo (1953), attila (1956) by Pietro Francisci e Everyone to his own tastes by Elio Petri (1967). After a role in Z – The orgy of power by Costa-Gavras (1969), in the 70s Papas will be directed by Carlo Lizzani in Well of Rome (1971), by Lucio Fulci in the thriller A Donald Duck is not tortured (1972), by Alberto Lattuada in I will be his father (1974) and by Francesco Rosi in Christ stopped at Eboli (1979).
In 1979 Polydor released “Odes”, an album in which Irene Papas performed eight Greek folk songs with electronic music performed (and partly composed) by Vangelis, with lyrics by Arianna Stassinopoulos. Papas and Vangelis collaborated again in 1986 on “Rapsodies”, an electronic version of seven Byzantine liturgical hymns, again edited with Polydor.
The 1980s saw Irene Papas starring with Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, Rod Steiger and Raf Vallone in desert lion (1981), a historical biopic based on the life of Libyan leader Omar al-Mukhtar, who fought against the reconquest of Libya by the Italian Royal Army. The film directed by Syrian Mustafa Akkad, known for producing the cult horror Halloween by John Carpenter, was not distributed in Italy, as it was considered “prejudicial to the honor of the Italian Army”. In 1985 Papas returned to America to star in comedy All in one night by John Landis (1985) alongside Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer and returned two years later to be directed by director Francesco Rosi in Chronicle of an announced death.
The 90s and early 2000s saw Irene Papas directed by Manoel de Oliveira in To party (1996), Hustle (1998) and in A spoken film (2003). Before this last film, Papas is in the cast of the war drama Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001) set in Kefalonia, directed by John Madden and starring Nicolas Cage. Papas last role was in 2004 in the drama Ecuba – The moviea film that marks the reunion of Papas with director Giuliana Berlinguer 21 years after the tragedy The deserter. “Ecuba – The Film”, co-directed by Berlinguer and Papas, is based on the tragedy “Ecuba” by Euripides in the version translated by Salvatore Quasimodo.
Hamenoi angeloi, directed by Nikos Triforos (1948)
The Dead City, by Frixos Iliadis (1952)
One of Them, directed by Aldo Fabrizi (1953)
Vortex, directed by Raffaello Matarazzo (1953)
The Infidels, by Steno and Mario Monicelli (1953)
Mission to Algiers, directed by Ray Enright and Edoardo Anton (1953)
Theodora, Empress of Byzantium, directed by Riccardo Freda (1954)
Attila, directed by Pietro Francisci (1954)
The Law of the Halter (Tribute to a Wicked Man), directed by Robert Wise (1956)
The Adventures of the Three Musketeers, by Joseph Lerner (1957)
The Unbeatable Sword, by Hugo Fregonese (1957)
Psit… koritsia!, directed by Alkis Papas (1959)
I limni ton stenagmon, by Grigoris Grigoriou (1959)
Bouboulina, by Kostas Andritsos (1959)
The Guns of Navarone, directed by J. Lee Thompson (1961)
Antigone (Antigoni), directed by Yorgos Javellas (1961)
Elettra (Ilektra), directed by Michael Cacoyannis (1962)
Yellow in Crete (The Moon-Spinners), by James Neilson (1964)
Zorba the Greek (Alexis Zorbas), by Michael Cacoyannis (1964)
Your Skalopatia, by Leonard Hirschfield (1966)
Trap for the Assassin (Roger’s Shame), directed by Riccardo Freda (1966)
To Each His Own, by Elio Petri (1967)
Die Zeugin aus der Hölle, directed by Zivorad ‘Zika’ Mitrovic (1967)
Ecce Homo – The Survivors, directed by Bruno Gaburro (1968)
The Desperate Ones, directed by Alexander Ramati (1968)
The Brotherhood, directed by Martin Ritt (1968)
Z – The Orgy of Power (Z), directed by Costa-Gavras (1969)
A Dream of Kings, directed by Daniel Mann (1969)
Anne of a Thousand Days, directed by Charles Jarrott (1969)
NP – The Secret, directed by Silvano Agosti (1971)
A Perfect Place to Kill, directed by Umberto Lenzi (1971)
Le troiane (The Troian Women), by Michael Cacoyannis (1971)
Roma bene, by Carlo Lizzani (1971)
El asesinato de Julio César, directed by Raúl Araiza – short film (1972)
Don’t Torture a Donald Duck, by Lucio Fulci (1972)
A clean square, directed by Luigi Vanzi (1973)
The Fifth Offensive (Sutjeska), directed by Stipe Delic (1973)
I will be a father, directed by Alberto Lattuada (1974)
The Message, directed by Mustafa Akkad (1976)
Blood Wedding, by Souheil Ben-Barka (1976)
Ifigenia (Ifigeneia), directed by Michael Cacoyannis (1977)
A Shadow in the Shadow, directed by Pier Carpi (1979)
Christ Stopped at Eboli, directed by Francesco Rosi (1979)
Blood Line, directed by Terence Young (1979)
The hot pepper social worker…, directed by Nando Cicero (1981)
Desert Lion, by Moustapha Akkad (1981)
Sarab, by Abdelhafidh Bouassida (1982)
The Deserter by Giuliana Berlinguer (1983)
Erendira, directed by Ruy Guerra (1983)
Melvin, Son of Alvin, by John Eastway (1984)
In the Night, by John Landis (1985)
Assisi Underground, directed by Alexander Ramati (1985)
Sweet Country, by Michael Cacoyannis (1987)
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, directed by Francesco Rosi (1987)
High Season, directed by Clare Peploe (1987)
Island, by Paul Cox (1989)
Nirvana Street Murder, directed by Aleksi Vellis (1990)
Letter from Paris, directed by Ugo Fabrizio Giordani (1992)
Pano, kato kai plagios (as Eirini Pappa), directed by Michael Cacoyannis (1993)
Party, by Manoel de Oliveira (1996)
Inquietudine (Worry), directed by Manoel de Oliveira (1998)
Yerma, by Pilar Tavora (1998)
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), directed by John Madden (2001)
Podzimní návrat, directed by Georgis Agathonikiadis (2001)
… Kai to train paei ston ourano, directed by Yannis Ioannou (2001)
A Spoken Film (Um Filme Falado), directed by Manoel de Oliveira (2003)
Ecuba – the movie, directed by Giuliana Berlinguer and Irene Papas (2004)