Irene Pappas, the actress of Albanian origin who flourished in Greece but became known around the world, has closed her eyes forever.
Iirene was one of the few actresses in Greece who shone all over the world. Born on September 3, 1926 in Chiliomodi, Corinth, she had the Albanian surname of her father, Leleku.
In 96 years of life, Irene played in 90 films, but the most prominent was the role of Penelope in the Italian television series "Odissea" together with the legend of cinematographic art, Bekim Fehmiu.
"I cannot leave this world, and not tell the truth, that I am Albanian! When I was born in 1926, my last name was Irene Leleku" - was the strong statement of the actress 6 years ago that shocked the Greeks, who know her as an actress of Hellenic origin. The Albanian origin of the famous actress has often been disputed, especially by Greek biographers.
The Greek researcher Aristidh Kollia paid attention to her Albanian origin in his book "Arvanitas and the origin of the Greeks" published in Athens in 1983. The actress herself in an interview, when asked why she was so beautiful, answered that "I look like my mother . My mother was ezmere like me".
"I'm speaking my mother's language"
During the shooting of the legendary film "Odyssea" in 1968, during breaks, the two actors were talking in a language that was not used by anyone else from the film crew. Overcome by curiosity, one of them asks:
-"Excuse me, but what language are you speaking"?
Irena Papas (Irini Leleku) touches Bekim Fehmi's hand to let him answer:
- "It is the mother's language"!
-"Mother language? And what can be that mother tongue when you are Greek and Bekim Fehmiu Yugoslavian"? - the journalist asks.
-"I am Albanian from Greece, while Bekim Albanian is from Yugoslavia, but the most important thing is that it was the will of God himself that we both play these two roles because once upon a time even Penelope and Odysseus spoke the same language that Bekimi and I are talking today".
Successful career Irene Pappas
Papas began her early career in Greece (she was discovered by Elia Kazan), achieving great fame there, before starring in internationally acclaimed films such as The Guns Navarone (1961) and Zorba the Greek (1964). ), and in critically acclaimed films such as Z (1969).
She was a leading figure in cinematic transcriptions of ancient tragedy, having portrayed Helen in Katharine Hepburn's Helen The Women of Troy (1971), Clytemnestra in Iphigenia (1977), and the eponymous parts in Antigone (1961) and Electra ( 1962). Papas also appeared as Catherine of Aragon in Anne of the Thousand Days opposite Richard Burton and Geneviève Bujold in 1969.
In 1976, she starred in the film Mohammad, the Messenger of God (known as The Message) about the origins of Islam and the message of Muhammad. One of her last film appearances was on Captain Corelli's mandolin.
In 1978, Papas collaborated with the composer Vangelis, on an electronic interpretation of eight Greek folk songs, released as a record called "Odes". They collaborated once again in 1986 for "Rhapsodies", an electronic interpretation of seven Byzantine liturgical hymns. In 1982, she appeared in the film 'Desert Lion', alongside Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, Rod Steiger, and John Gielgud in the role.
He has performed in films from America to France, from England to Italy, under the direction of well-known directors Robert Wise, Mihail Kakojanis, from Jorgo Xhavella to Elio Petri, Alberto Latuada and Francesco Rossi, from Kosta Gavras to Ray Guerra, etc.
Irena Papa has interpreted the main roles of the heroines of tragedies such as Electra, Clytimestra, Penelope, Antigone, Empress Teodora, Catherine of Aragon, the role of the widow in the very successful film "Zorba", the role of the grandmother in the film "Erendiras", etc. In 1959, Irena also played the role of the heroine of the Greek revolution of 1821, Arvanite Laskarina Bubulina.
For her outstanding performances in cinema and theater, Irena Papa has been honored with several national and international awards such as: The best actress in the interpretation of the role of Elektra in the film with the same title at the International Film Festival held in Thessaloniki, 1962, as best actress honored by the Union of Greek Film Critics, 1962, as best supporting actress in the film "Z" by the New York Film Critics Circle, 1969; best actress in "The Trojan Women" by the National Board of Review, 1971; with the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Hamptons International Film Festival.1993; with the career award for theater performance, 1993 "Flaiano"; with the career award from the Madrid National Arts Institution, 2000; with the career award from the International Festival Women's films, 2000; with the title Doctor of Arts and Letters from the University of Rome, 2001; with the Woman of Europe career award.
Likewise, she has been nominated for several other international awards such as "Fennecus" as the best actress in the film "Into the Night", 1985; best actress in the film "Island" from the Australian Film Institute, 1989.
Goodbye Irene Leleku!