“Papadopoulos & Sons” is a British comedy/drama directed and written by Marcus Markou that revolves around self-made Greek millionaire Harry, who, after being stripped of his wealth due to a financial crisis, struggles with having to go into business with his brother Spiros. The film was also executive produced by Marcus’s brother, Andrew.
Marcus and Andrew grew up in Birmingham, UK, in a small Greek Cypriot community of about 30,000 people. Their father emigrated from the town of Gambi Farmagas, Cyprus in 1962, to Birmingham, which is where he met their mother. Marcus visited Gambi Farmagas as a teen, and it gave him a moment to realize the opportunities he was given by his father’s decision to take a huge “leap” from a poor village, to then becoming the first Greek Cypriot accountant in their British town. The possibilities were endless for the budding director, whose training at The London Academy for Music & Dramatic Art, and aptitude for playwriting, ultimately paved the way for filmmaking.
In an interview with Greek Reporter, Marcus talks about the inspiration for his highly anticipated first feature film, working with famed actors Stephen Dillane and Georges Corraface, and what he hopes viewers will take away from “Papadopoulos & Sons,” whose plot hits closer to home for Greeks than he initially expected.
Where did the inspiration for your film, ‘Papadopoulos & Sons,’ come from?
Since my early 20s, I always wanted to write about what happens to immigrants when they have established themselves in their host country and achieved their goals. Given my own background, the son of Greek Cypriot immigrants, I wanted to ask, ‘What is lost along the way? What do you lose when you make that valid choice to improve your life and the life of your children?’ I always felt it was a universal question because so much of today’s society has come from a humble background – perhaps one or two generations before. I felt it was a story that so many people could resonate with.
How would you describe the film?
It is a story about how you can find what is missing when you lose it all. It is about understanding what the real meaning of success is.
Is the main character, Harry, dealing with a financial crisis as a result of what’s happening currently in Greece?
It is a fictional financial crisis set in the present day. I took a gamble when I wrote this two years ago. The gamble being that we would still be in a financial crisis by the time the film came out. It looks like we still are! But I started writing the story before the Greek crisis exploded onto the news. In the film, Harry’s trouble starts when a fictional bank collapses in the present time.
Seeing as how ‘Papadopoulos & Sons’ is about Greeks living in London, and Harry is going through a time of financial crisis, how much do you think Greeks will relate to this film when they see it?
I think Greeks will relate to this because it’s about starting again. The Greeks in Greece are going through the pain first. No one will escape the pain of what the Greeks are going through. In a way, I am optimistic for Greece because they will need to be the first to find a solution. But this is also about a family who come together and there isn’t a person alive who cannot relate to family life. We all come from one or live in one.
What do you hope Greeks, and all viewers, will get out of watching it?
I hope they will realize that all success is felt in the heart and not in the mind. I hope all viewers emotionally connect to the idea that the love of your friends and family – whilst sometimes challenging – is what really matters. Everything else can disappear in an instant – the house, the car, the job, the status. This is what we are learning now, in this current crisis. The very foundations of what we’ve valued have crumbled. I hope people realize that you can start small and be happy starting small again. This film champions the small business, the Mom and Pop store. It’s about Main Street over Wall Street. It’s the small businesses that will get us out of this crisis, not the corporate [ones] that have gotten us into this crisis. This film, in essence, gets to the heart of the American dream, which is something we all buy into across the world now. And that dream has been forgotten and neglected because at the heart of that dream is fairness, equality and opportunity for all.
There’s a Turkish kebab house next to the Papadopoulos fish & chips store, and they have a rivalry. There’s also a twist where the Turkish owner’s son falls for the Papadopoulos daughter. How did this play into the script?
The film is about…starting with a new blank page. The world is going through so much turmoil because the old ways are being questioned and in some cases have just simply ceased to work. And perhaps on a subconscious level, I was probably saying that this should be the way with old rivalries too. I’ve not thought about it too much. If we are to progress – in all aspects of our lives – then we should be prepared to question old rivalries and be prepared to make new friends. And of course, there is no better dramatic idea than two young lovers from rival communities. It’s Romeo and Juliet.
How did you decide on the casting? Was it important to you whether any of the lead cast members were of Greek descent?
I wanted at least one of the brothers to be of Greek descent and it was important that Spiros was Greek. He is the brother that is very much in touch with his Greek spirit. I was keen to find a British actor to play Harry (that could pass for a Greek) because Harry has lost his Greek roots and a big part of the film is a journey to discover them. In Stephen Dillane and Georges Corraface, I found two wonderfully gifted actors. It was a privilege and as someone who trained as an actor, I would often forget I was directing them and be struck with awe at their methods.
You trained at famed London theatrical school LAMDA. Was working in front of the camera something you initially wanted to do?
I originally wanted to be an actor because I love stories. I always felt free and liberated on the stage and I still work as an actor improvising with a London improv theatre company called Fluxx. We do longform improvisation – which means we try and tell stories of around 45 minutes or more without a script. I love it and would advise any actor to regularly improvise in this way. I did take a small, tiny part in the film. I play the news reporter that breaks the story about the bank collapsing. In technical story structure terms, I am the messenger that introduces the inciting event!
Your career initially started with writing plays, what made you transition into film?
I used to write plays, and I was always left feeling frustrated. As a playwright you have very little control over a production. I decided to take a part time filmmaking class in 2009 because I wanted to see if film could be a more rewarding medium for me. At the same time my friend, who’s father was Elliott Kastner the film producer, suggested I meet Elliott for advice. Elliott and I became great friends in the last year of his life. He sadly passed away in 2010. He was my catalyst. Elliott made over 60 films in his life as a producer – with everyone who was anyone and I would regularly pick his brain about what he learned in his life. He was a classic Hollywood producer living in London and so I was very fortunate to meet him and get to know him. He was one of the last of the great independent film producers and I dedicated ‘Papadopoulos & Sons’ to his memory in the credits. Even though he was very ill, his passion for life was inspirational. And here was a man who seemed to have lost it all and started again many times through his life. His highs and lows were legendary. The combination of going to film school and meeting Elliott at the same time was a real accelerator. At film school, I realized I had a natural feel or grasp for film making. I never imagined I would have the technical skill for making films. But I realized that I had enough skills already to engage with the people who did have the technical skills – whether in sound, lighting, art department, casting etc. My background as a writer and actor prepared me for how to work with other actors and how to work with a story. I am happy for others to take the lead and blaze a trail if that is what will help the story. In that respect, I am a director that likes to collaborate in all areas with minimal intervention if the person doing the job is doing it well. I don’t have a problem with anyone challenging what I want to do, if what is being offered is better than what I am proposing.
Your brother Andrew served as Executive Producer. What was it like working with a family member on-set when the plot revolves around a man reluctant to work with his own brother?
Andrew is one of my greatest supporters. He just let me get on with it and trusted me to deliver. For that, I will always be grateful. He’s also my younger brother – and he probably had no choice!
And how long did it take to shoot/complete ‘Papadopoulos & Sons’?
We shot the film in 24 days, which is really tight. Then we spent three months in post production. We were fully finished by March 2012.
When do you anticipate it will be released in theaters?
We are just starting out. I believe the film requires a distribution model that fits the themes it carries. I’m an independent filmmaker. It was made with a spirit of independence and I am keen to make sure the same spirit is embodied in the way it is distributed and paid for.
Finally, what are your plans after ‘Papadopoulos & Sons’ is released?
I’d like to make more films. I never felt so alive as I did on the set. I feel I have more stories that are worth telling. Like so many people, I find myself munching popcorn in the cinema and thinking ‘Why am I watching this?’ Every now and then, you come across a film that has a big pumping heart at its center and leaves you on a high. It feels like you’ve been reunited with a friend. I hope I’ve made a film that makes people feel like that and I’d like to make more. However, it’s hard to plan what my next steps before I know what is to become of ‘Papadopoulos & Sons.’ And I really don’t know what that is yet. My hope is that as many people get to see it as possible.
To get updates on the film, or to “like” it, check out the Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Papadopoulosandsons