Irene Papas - Details


A gigantic figure of the Greek stage and cinema, Irene Papas plays the robust mother of a freedom fighter.
Irene Papas is the modern embodiment of classic Greek plays, her great tragic face so fiercely beautiful that it limited her roles in Hollywood movies. Still, she is well remembered from Zorba the Greek (1964) and Guns of Navarone, The (1961) as well as Brotherhood, The (1968), Power and the Prize, The (1956) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).
Her appearance in the 1969 Academy Award winner, Z (1969), directed by her fellow Greek-in-exile, Costa-Gavras, was as much political statement as performance. Papas lived outside her native land during much of the 1960s and 1970s. The name "Irene" is the Greek word for peace.
Papas' lasting glory as an actress comes from her modern interpretations of the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in Greece and other European countries, and also in the United States. Here, she appeared in Iphigenia in Aulis in 1967 off-Broadway; in Medea in 1975 at the Circle in the Square and at the same venue in 1980 in The Bacchae. Each production was treated as a major theatrical event by critics and theater-goers. She also appeared on Broadway in 1966 opposite Jon Voight in That Summer-That Fall.
Film-goers around the world know her best from a handful of film adaptations of the Greek classics made between 1962 and 1979: Antigone, Electra, The Trojan Women, and Iphigenia.
Irene Papas was born in a small village near Corinth to schoolteachers. Her mother, Eleni, awakened her imagination with fairy tales and her father, a teacher of classical drama, nurtured and shaped her aesthetics. As a child she made dolls from sticks and rags, changing the black kerchiefs as appropriate to her own personally-directed dramas.
Papas received classic training at the National School of Dramatic Arts in Athens from age 15, and started her career as a singer-dancer in variety shows. Soon she was a well-known actress, working at the Popular Theatre of Greece. In time, she came to believe that the typically stilted presentations of Greek classics were not only tedious but probably not how they were originally performed. She evolved a more naturalistic, conversational style of acting which made her performances all the more riveting.