The Academy Awards often had Greek color. Greeks and people of Greek origin have always represented the Greek spirit in cinema’s biggest celebration. This year alone, Greek Australian George Miller is nominated for the furious Mad Max: Fury Road.
Greeks and the Oscars go way back, to the time of World War II, when in 1944 Katina Paxinou won Best Supporting Actress award for her role in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Four years later, Elia Kazan, the son of Greeks from Istanbul, was awarded Best Director for “Gentleman’s Agreement.”
In 1952, Kazan was nominated for Best Director for “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
In 1955, Elia Kazan won the Oscar for Best Director Oscar for the film “On the Waterfront.” A year later, Kazan was a candidate again for his work on “East of Eden.”
In 1961, “Never on Sunday” by director Jules Dassin was nominated for three Oscars, with Melina Mercouri fighting for Best Actress and eventually losing to Liz Taylor. The film won the Oscar for the music of Manos Hadjidakis, and the song “Children of Piraeus” in particular. The third nomination was that of costume designer Theoni Vachlioti-Aldredge.
In 1963, “Electra” by Michael Cacoyannis was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category. In the same year, Giorgos Chakiris won the Oscar for Supporting Actor in the “West Side Story” movie. He was the first actor to win an Oscar for a dance role.
A year later, Red Lanterns by Vassilis Georgiadis was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category. In the same year, Elia Kazan was a candidate for an Oscar in the categories of Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay for “America, America.”
In 1965, Michael Cacoyannis’ “Zorba the Greek” had four nominations. It finally won the Art Direction award for Vassilis Fotopoulos.
In 1966, “Blood on the Land” by Vassilis Georgiadis was nominated in the category Best Foreign Language Film.
In 1968, John Cassavetes, who was born in New York to Greek-American parents but lived the first years of his life in Greece, was a candidate for Best Supporting Actor for “The Dirty Dozen.”
The following year Cassavetes was nominated again, this time for Original Screenplay for the movie “Faces”, which he wrote and directed.
In 1970, Kostas Gavras, the Greek director who emigrated to Paris and is Greece’s chief cinematographer of political cinema, was nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for “Z.”
In 1975, Theoni Vachlioti won the Oscar for Best Costumes for “The Great Gatsby” with Robert Redford. That same year, Greek-American Dean Tavoularis won the Art Direction Oscar for “The Godfather” II). The same year, John Cassavetes was nominated for Best Director Oscar for the drama “A Woman Under the Influence.”
A year later, Chris Sarandon (or Christopher Sarantopoulos), former husband of Susan Sarandon, was candidate for Best Supporting Actor in “Dog Day Afternoon.”
In 1978, “Iphigenia” by Michael Cacoyannis was nominated in the category Best Foreign Language Film.
In 1982, Greek composer Vangelis Papathanasiou who lives in Paris won the Oscar for Best Music in “Chariots of Fire.”
The following year, Kostas Gavras won Best Adapted Screenplay award for the film “Missing.”
In 1988, Olympia Dukakis won Best Supporting Actress award for “Moonstruck.”
In 2001, Christina Lazaridis was nominated for Best Short Film for “One Day Crossing.”
In 2003, Greek-Canadian Nia Vardalos was nominated for Best Original Screenplay Oscar “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
In 2006, Greek-American Alexander Payne (Papadopoulos), who was born in the U.S. of Greek origin parents, won Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Sideways.” He was also nominated for Best Director among a total of five nominations.
In 2011, Dogtooth by Giorgos Lanthimos earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
The following year, Alexander Payne returned with five nominations for “The Descendants.” He won the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay.
In 2014, Payne returned with six nominations this time: Nebraska was a nominee for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay, while another Greek, Phedon Papamichael was nominee for Best Cinematography.
In 2015, Greek-French composer Alexandre Desplat won the Best Music Award for “Grand Hotel Budapest.” Desplat was also nominated for Best Music in 2007 (The Queen), 2008 (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), 2010 (Fantastic Mr Fox), 2011 (The King’s Speech), 2013 (Argo) and 2014 for “Philomena.”
This year, the Greek element is represented by veteran director George Miller, a Greek origin Australian. Miller is nominated in 10 categories for his dystopic masterpiece “Mad Max: Fury Road.”