Nationality: Greek. Born: Irene Lelekou in Chiliomodion, 9 March 1926. Education: Attended the Royal Drama School, Athens. Family: Married 1) Alkis Papas, 1947 (marriage dissolved 1951); 2) José Kohn, 1957 (marriage annulled). Career: Singer and dancer from her teens in variety shows; 1950—film debut in Nekri Politeia; contract with Lux films (Italy) in early 1950s; made several U.S. films in the mid-1950s, and international productions subsequently; 1967—on Broadway with Jon Voight in That Summer—That Fall. Address: c/o United Film Distribution, 115 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck, NY 11021, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Nekri Politeia (Dead City) (Iliades)
Le infideli (The Unfaithfuls) (Steno and Monicelli) (as Mrs. Luisa Azzali); Dramma della Casbah (Anton); Vortice (Matarazzo); The Man from Cairo (Enright) (as Yvonne)
Teodora, Imperatrice di Bisanzio (Theodora, Slave and Empress) (Freda); Attila flagello di dio (Attila; Attila the Hun) (Francisci) (as Grune)
Tribute to a Bad Man (Wise) (as Jocasta Constantine); The Power and the Prize (Koster)
Antigone (Rights for the Dead) (Tzavellas) (title role)
The Guns of Navarone (J. Lee Thompson) (as Maria Pappadimos)
Electra (Cacoyannis) (title role)
The Moon-Spinners (Neilson) (as Sophia); Zorba the Greek (Cacoyannis) (as the widow)
Die Zeugin aus der Hölle (Witness Out of Hell; Gorge Trave; Bitter Grass) (Mitrovic) (as Lea Weiss)
Roger la Honte (Freda)
Más allá de las montañas (Beyond the Mountains; The Desperate Ones) (Ramati) (as Ajmi); A ciascuno il sou (We Still Kill the Old Way) (Petri) (as Luisa Roscio)
The Brotherhood (Ritt) (as Ida Ginetta); Ecce Homo (Gaburro); L'Odissea (Rossi—for TV)
Z (Costa-Gavras) (as Hélène); A Dream of Kings (Delbert Mann) (as Caliope); Anne of the Thousand Days (Jarrott) (as Queen Catherine of Aragon)
The Trojan Women (Cacoyannis) (as Helen of Troy); Roma Bene (Lizzani); N.P. (N.P.—The Secret) (Agosti) (as housewife); Un posto ideale per uccidere (Lenzi)
Non si servizia un paperino (Don't Torture the Duckling) (Fulci); Piazza Pulita (1931: Once upon a Time in New York; Pete, Pearl and the Pole) (Vanzi); Sutjeska (The Fifth Offensive) (Vanzi)
Le faró da padre (Bambina) (Lattuada)
Mose (Moses; The Lawgiver) (De Bosio—for TV) (as Zipporah)
The Message (Mohammad, Messenger of God; Al-Risalah) (Akkad) (as Hind); Bodas de sangre (Barka)
L'uomo di Corleone (Coletti); Un ombra nell' ombra (Carpi); Iphigenia (Cacoyannis) (as Clytemnestra)
Bloodline (Terence Young) (as Simonetta Palazza); Cristo si e fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli) (Rosi) (as Giulia)
Lion of the Desert (Omar Mukhtar) (Akkad—produced in 1979) (as Mabrouka)
Erendira (Guerra) (as grandmother); La Ballade de Mamlouk (Bouassida)
Il disertore (The Deserter) (Berlinquer) (as Mariangela); Afghanistan porquoi (Masbahi)
Steps (Hirschfield); The Assisi Underground (Ramati) (as Mother Giuseppina)
Into the Night (Landis) (as Shaheen Parvizi)
Sweet Country (Cacoyannis) (as Mrs. Araya); High Season (Peploe) (as Penelope)
Cronaca di una morte annunciata (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) (Rosi) (as Angela's Mother)
Island (Cox) (as Marquise); Ociano (Deodato—for TV)
La Batalla de los Tres Reyes (as Lalla Sahaba)
Drums of Fire; Banquet
Lettera da Parigi (The Latest from Paris) (Giordani) (as Gina); Zoe
Pano Kato Ke Plagios (Up, Down and Sideways) (Cacoyannis) (as Maria)
Jacob (Peter Hall—for TV) (as Rebekah)
Party (de Oliveira) (as Irene)
The Odyssey (Konchalovsky—mini for TV) (as Anticlea)
Inquietude (Anxiety) (de Oliveira) (as Mother)
The Wog Boy (Vellis) (as Old Lady)
By PAPAS: articles—
"Interviews with Michael Cacoyannis and Irene Papas," in Bucknell Review, vol. 35, no. 1, 1990.
"Irene Papas a Toronto," interview with E. Castiel, in Séquences (Montreal), November/December 1993.
On PAPAS: articles—
Ecran (Paris), July 1978.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 16 August 1979.
García Márquez, Gabriel, "Behind the Scenes: Chronicle of a Film Foretold," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1984.
McDonald, M., "Interviews with Michael Cacoyannis and Irene Papas," in Bucknell Review, vol. 35, no. 1, 1991.
* * *
Some actors and roles seem predestined for each other. From the opening shot of Michael Cacoyannis's Electra, as the proud, implacable face emerges from encroaching shadows, it becomes impossible to imagine anyone else as Euripides's heroine. Erect, immutably dignified, dark eyes burning fiercely beneath heavy black brows, Irene Papas visibly embodies the sublimity of classical Greece, tragic yet serene. "I had never thought," Dilys Powell wrote, "to see the face of the great Apollo from the Olympia pediment live and move. Now I have seen it."
Cacoyannis continued to provide some of her finest roles: as the caged Helen, eyes flashing, defying the execrations of The TrojanWomen; and in Iphigenia, the third in his Euripidean trilogy, as Clytemnestra, terrible in her grief, even more terrible in the cold, vengeful tenacity that succeeds it. He also cast her, memorably, as the widow in Zorba the Greek: cool marble to Lila Kedrova's raddled plush, yet still conveying a powerful sensuality beneath the impassive surface which rendered wholly credible the final appalling explosion into violence.
So awe-inspiring a presence has often worked to Papas's detriment, tending to limit her roles—especially in Hollywood, where she has generally been assigned Mother Earth parts, requiring little more than stoical suffering or elemental fury. Yet her range is certainly wider—she started out, after all, in Athenian musical reviews. Italy, her second home during the Colonels' regime (which she contemptuously termed "the fourth Reich"), has sometimes offered more imaginative scope. Her housekeeper in Rosi's Cristo si e fermato a Eboli, bathing Gian Maria Volonté in a tin tub and commenting with sly appreciation on his physique, suggests a talent for subtle comedy hitherto unsuspected by international audiences—and which it would be good to see developed.
"Papas, Irene." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/papas-irene
"Papas, Irene." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved April 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/papas-irene
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