Irene Papas dies: the Greek actress was 96 years old.  She was Penelope in the TV miniseries "Odyssey"

Irene Papas dies: the Greek actress was 96 years old. She was Penelope in the TV miniseries “Odyssey”

from Maurizio Porro

Pseudonym of Irene Lelekou, she had starred in Zorba the Greek, The message, The Trojan women and Electra

At the royal age of 96 years old Irene Papas, born Irene Lelekou, starring with Anthony Quinn of “Zorba the Greek”, also went to Chiliomodi, a small town in the Peloponnese in Greece, near Corinth, one of the Greek actresses, with Melina Mercouri, best known in Italy. With us you have often worked at the beginning of your career, alternating a lot of genres, dramatic with Steno and Monicelli (“The infidels”) and historical with Pietro Francisci (“Attila” with Loren). Wife in the 40s of director Alkis Papas, a Mediterranean beauty of ancient origins with eyes lost in historical eternity, well versed in the classical repertoire, after a brief American stop (where she attends the Actor’s Studio), she finds her director trust in compatriot Michael Cacoyannis. He gives her a trilogy that every actress dreams of: three tragic heroines, from “Elettra” voiced by Miserocchi (’62, best actress at Cannes), to the co-production “The Troians” (Elena in a cast of excellence with Katharine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave) up to “Ifigenia”, in 77.

And always with the same director he starts dancing the popular sirtaki in “Zorba the Greek” in ’64, an example of folklorism (but of US production) with a famous soundtrack by Theodorakis. Even if she continues to appear in some American big movies like “The guns of Navarone”, her career at this point becomes very Italian, an actress practically exiled who continues with films to fight the hated regime of the colonels in Greece, especially with “Z” by Costa Gavras, another French resident director. In Italy, a generation has changed, he works with Lattuada (“Le far da padre”), Rosi (“Christ stopped at Eboli”, “Chronicle of a death foretold”), Petri (the famous and excellent film on the mafia “To each his “) but also comes to Nando Cicero and Fulci, while Maurizio Scaparro makes her debut in the theater, in Vicenza, in Corrado Alvaro’s” Long night of Medea “, a tailor-made role.

For the general public it was unforgettable in the record script from Franco Rossi’s “Odyssey”, ’68, in the role of Penelope (later a remake of Koncialovskji in 97, where it was Anticlea) and in De Bosio’s “Mos”. Many and different opportunities are offered to a courageous, temperamental actress, a lover of novelties: she passes from the blockbuster “The Lion of the Desert”, to the atrocities of General Graziani in Libya, while in 1983 she recites “Erendira” by Guerra, a famous character from a short story by Garcia Marquez, an unrecognizable grandmother deformed by makeup. She always jams the project of a biopic about Callas (with Quinn Onassis) but her career does not stop, she takes many paths.

In 1987 he presided over the jury of the Venice Film Festival and continues to tread the Italian stages, with Bolognini the Countess Ilse of the “Mountain Giants”, followed by the monologue “Theodora of Byzantium”. The last years of her career diminish her work, but she is in the international cast of the “Mandolino del cap. Corelli ”by Madden and in the masterpiece of De Oliveira, a director with whom she has often collaborated,“ A spoken film ”set in a group of European actresses. Papas also had a recording career, in 72 with a vinyl that was blocked by censorship for sexual innuendo, but remaking with two albums along with Vangelis. She was admired by Fellini, she was a friend of Hepburn and she confessed, after the actor’s death, after the fact, that she had a relationship with Marlon Brando, she was kept protected from gossip.

September 14, 2022 (change September 14, 2022 | 11:33)

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