Irene Papas, the Greek actress and recording artist renowned for her dramatic performances and austere beauty that earned her prominent roles in Hollywood movies as well as in French and Italian cinema over six decades has died. She was 93.
The Greek Culture Ministry confirmed her death Wednesday.
“Magnificent, majestic, dynamic, Irene Papas was the personification of Greek beauty on the cinema screen and on the theater stage, an international leading lady who radiated Greekness,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said in a statement.
Papas became known internationally following performances in The Guns of Navarone in 1961 and Zorba the Greek in 1964, acting alongside Hollywood stars Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn. In all, she starred in more than 50 movies.
Born Irene Lelekou in a mountainous village near the southern Greek city of Corinth, Papas was the daughter of two schoolteachers. Her father was also a drama teacher.
Papas left home at 18 to marry Greek film director Alkis Papas despite her family’s disapproval. They divorced four years later. After the death of American actor Marlon Brando in 2004, Papas revealed in an Italian newspaper interview that the two had been romantically involved.
A supporter of the Greek Communist Party, Papas was a vocal opponent of the military dictatorship that governed the country between 1967 and 1974 and lived much for life outside Greece, including in Rome and New York.
Papas was also known for her appearance in ancient Greek tragedies. Many of her iconic international movie roles were earned portraying Greek characters. But she also starred with Kirk Douglas in the 1968 crime drama Brotherhood and with James Cagney in the 1956 Western Tribute to a Bad Man.
Greek arts institutions thanked Papas for her support for younger actors. The Athens-based Greek Film Center described her as “The greatest Greek international film star,” adding: “Her image is a timeless imprint of Greek female beauty.”
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