On Sunday night, the world will be watching as the 84th Annual Academy Awards celebrate excellence in movies. With an audience of about a billion viewers, the Oscar telecast is one of the biggest televised events on the planet, rivaled only by the FIFA World Cup.
As always, glamour is on the menu and the usual stars are expected to put in their appearances: Brad and Angelina, George Clooney and, of course Jack Nicholson in his trademark shades. While you may recognize the names that you see in front of the camera, the Oscars also celebrate the people behind the camera, who write the scripts, score the music, edit the footage, design the sets, make the costumes and light everything. After all, filmmaking is a collaborative enterprise and hundreds of people work behind the scenes to make on-screen magic happen.
Greeks and persons of Greek descent are no strangers to Oscar Glory. Over the years, our Greek compatriots have been rewarded on numerous occasions. Here are some of the more notable winners:
Elia Kazan – The legendary director won 2 Oscars for Best Director including for the 1955 classic On the Water Front, starring Marlon Brando. He was also awarded a lifetime achievement award in 1999.
Vangelis (Papanathassiou) – The composer, best known for his electronic music and his prog rock collaborations with Jon Anderson of Yes, won the award for Best Original Music Score for 1981’s Chariots of Fire.
Constantine Alexander Payne (Anglicized from Papadopoulous) – The writer/director of About Schmidt and Election won Best Adapted Screenplay for Sideways, starring John Giammati.
Olympia Dukakis – The sister of U.S. Presidential candidate and Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis won Best Supporting Actress in 1987 for her role in Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicholas Cage.
The 1964 film Zorba the Greek was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It ended up winning three, making it the most celebrated Hellenic motion picture in history. Mihalis Kakogiannis was nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; star Anthony Quinn was nominated for Best Actor; and the film picked up wins as Best Supporting Actress for Lila Kedrova, Best Art Direction (Black-and-White) for Vassilis Photopoulos, and Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) for Walter Lassally.
Because of his performance, many fans assumed that Irish-Mexican actor was Anthony Quinn was of Greek descent. To further complicate matters, Quinn was also cast to play Theo Tomasis, a character based loosely on real-life shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, in the 1978 film The Greek Tycoon.