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3 September 1926
Chiliomodi, Corinth, Greece
Papas was born as Irini Lelekou (Ειρήνη Λελέκου) in Chiliomodi, outside Corinth, Greece. Her mother was a schoolteacher, and her father taught classical drama. She serves on the board of directors of the Anna-Marie Foundation.
Papas began her early career in Greece (she was discovered by Elia Kazan), achieving widespread fame there, before starring in internationally renowned films such as The Guns of Navarone and Zorba the Greek, and critically acclaimed films such as Z and Electra. She is a leading figure in cinematic transcriptions of ancient tragedy since she has portrayed Helen in The Trojan Women, Clytemnestra in Iphigenia, and the eponymous parts in Electra and Antigone. She appeared as Catherine of Aragon in the film Anne of the Thousand Days, opposite Richard Burton and Geneviève Bujold in 1969. She co-starred in The Trojan Women with Katharine Hepburn.
In 1976, she starred in the film Mohammad, Messenger of God (also known as The Message) about the origin of Islam, and the message of Mohammad. One of her last film appearances was in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. She is currently working in theatre in Portugal.
In 1978, Papas collaborated with composer Vangelis in an electronic rendition of eight Greek folk songs, issued as a record called "Odes". They collaborated again in 1986 for "Rhapsodies", an electronic rendition of seven Byzantine liturgical hymns.
International awards and honours
- 1961: Antigone (film)
- 1962: Thessaloniki International Film Festival (Best Actress, for the film Elektra) — won
- 1962: Union of Greek Film Critics (Best Actress, for the film Elektra) — won
- 1969: New York Film Critics Circle (Best Supporting Actress, for the film Z) — nominated
- 1971: National Board of Review (Best Actress, for the film The Trojan Women) — won
- 1985: Fennecus Awards (Best Actress in a limited role, for the film Into the Night) — nominated
- 1989: Australian Film Institute (Best Actress, for the film Island) — nominated
- 1993: Hamptons International Film Festival (Distinguished Achievement Award) — won
- 1993: Flaiano Prize for Theatre (Career Award) — won
- 2000: Madrid National Arts Institution (Career Award) — won
- 2000: International Festival Women’s films (Career Award) — won
- 2001: University of Rome (Doctorate in Arts and Letters) — won
- 2002: Woman of Europe Award (Career Award) — won
Appearances as singer
In 1969, the RCA label released Papas' vinyl LP, Songs of Theodorakis (INTS 1033). This has eleven songs all sung in Greek but with sleeve notes written in English by Michael Cacoyannis.
One of the more unusual moments in Papas' career came in 1970, when she guested on the album 666 by Greek rock group Aphrodite's Child on the track "∞" (infinity). She chants "I was, I am, I am to come" repeatedly and wildly over a percussive backing. The track was considered lewd by record company executives, and resulted in the album being withheld from release for two years by Polydor Records. Upon its release in 1972, the song caused some furor in Greece and was again accused of lewdness and indecency by Greek religious figures and government authorities.
In 1979, Polydor released her solo album entitled Odes, with music performed (and partly composed) by Vangelis Papathanassiou (also previously a member of Aphrodite's Child). The words for the album were co-written by Arianna Stassinopoulos (Arianna Huffington).
In 1986 Papas released a further album in collaboration with Vangelis, entitled Rhapsodies (Polydor CD 829 413-2).
A later CD, Irene Pappas Sings Mikis Theodorakis, was officially released in 2006 on the FM label (FM B0002GSA8G), but a wider selection of the songs, all sung in Greek, had been circulating as bootleg tapes for many years. Papas was known to Mikis Theodorakis as early as 1964 from working with him on Zorba the Greek. Some of the songs, performed with passion and skill by Papas, have a Zorba-like quality, e.g. Αρνηση (Denial, on the CD) and Πεντε Πεντε Δεκα (Five Five Ten, not on the CD), so it seems likely they date from soon after 1964. The Theodorakis songs sound more like traditional Greek Bouzouki music than the Vangelis works.
- Dead City (1951)
- The Man from Cairo (1953)
- Le infedeli (1953)
- Theodora, Slave Empress (1954)
- Attila (1954)
- Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)
- Climax! (1958) (TV)
- Bouboulina (1959)
- The Guns of Navarone (1961)
- Antigone (1961)
- Electra (1962)
- The Moon-Spinners (1964)
- Zorba the Greek (1964)
- Zeugin aus der Hölle (1966)
- Roger la Honte (1966)
- We Still Kill the Old Way (1967)
- The Desperate Ones (1967)
- L'Odissea (1968) (TV miniseries)
- The Brotherhood (1968)
- Ecce Homo - I sopravvissuti (1968)
- Z (1969)
- A Dream of Kings (1969)
- Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
- Oasis of Fear (1971)
- The Trojan Women (1971)
- Roma Bene (1971)
- 1931: Once Upon a Time in New York (1972)
- Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)
- N.P. - Il segreto (1973)
- The Battle of Sutjeska (1973)
- I'll Take Her Like a Father (1974)
- Moses the Lawgiver (1974) (TV miniseries)
- Mohammad, Messenger of God (1977)
- Blood Wedding (1977)
- Iphigenia (1977)
- Christ Stopped at Eboli (1979)
- Bloodline (1979)
- Ring of Darkness (1979)
- Lion of the Desert (1981)
- L'assistente sociale tutto pepe (1981)
- Eréndira (1983)
- Il disertore (1983)
- Melvin, Son of Alvin (1984)
- Into the Night (1985)
- The Assisi Underground (1985)
- Sweet Country (1987)
- Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1987)
- High Season (1987)
- A Child Called Jesus (1987) (TV film)
- Nirvana Street Murder (1990)
- Jacob (1994) (TV film)
- Party (1996)
- The Odyssey (1997) (TV miniseries)
- Anxiety (1998)
- Yerma (1998)
- Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
- A Talking Picture (2003)
- Profile, filmreference.com; accessed 30 April 2015.
- "Press Conference on the developments regarding the 'Anna-Maria' Foundation", greekroyalfamily.org, 28 August 2003.