Throughout the glamorous history of the Academy Awards, aka the oscars, five Greeks have laid hold of the gold-plated statuette, including Katina Paxinou (1944), Manos Hadjidakis (1961), Vassilis Photopoulos (1965), Vangelis Papathanassiou (1982) and Costas Gavras (1983).
Many others, including artists of Greek descent, have distinguished themselves at the Oscars over the years as well. Yorgos Lanthimos, for example, was nominated in 2017 for Best Screenplay for his film “Lobster.” In 2019 his film “The Favourite” was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director.
Greeks and the Oscars go way back, to the years of World War II, when in 1944 Katina Paxinou won Best Supporting Actress award for her role in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a film based on Ernest Hemingway’s beloved novel.
Paxinou was not only the first Greek woman to hold an Oscar — she also became the first non-American to be honored with an American Film Academy Award.
Wearing a plain black dress in her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, Paxinou paid tribute to her colleagues at the National Theater of Greece and the American soldiers who were fighting in many fronts around the globe.
“The honor gives me the opportunity to send my deep love and admiration to the heroic soldiers of your great nation, the young people of America who fight with their allies all over the world for Freedom, Justice and Human Dignity,” she said in her remarks.
On April 17, 1961, Manos Hadjidakis was awarded the Oscar for Best Song for “Children of Piraeus” in Jill Dassen’s film “Never on Sunday.”
However, the Greek composer never treated the Oscars as a special moment in his career, saying “It might be a simple song that brought me the Oscar. But my ambitions and my obligations do not stop there …For me, it’s not the crown of a career, but my true beginning.”
Vassilis Photopoulos, an influential Greek painter, film director, art director and set designer, became an Academy Award winner in 1965 for Art Direction for the film “Zorba the Greek.”
On March 29, 1982, composer Vangelis Papathanassiou, known internationally simply as “Vangelis,” won an Oscar for his music for Hugh Hudson’s film “Chariots of Fire.”
The movie is based on the true story of two British amateur runners aiming to win the gold medal at the 1924 Olympics. The music of the Greek composer played an important role in the success of the film. The music of the opening titles is considered to be one of the most popular moments in the history of cinema music and has been used extensively in films and television shows.
The following year, on April 11, 1983, Greek-born filmmaker Costa-Gavras was honored for his Oscar-winning screenplay for the haunting film “The Missing.”
The film was based on a book by Thomas X, which tells the true story of American journalist Charlie Horman, who disappeared in Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The film’s music was written by Vangelis Papathanasiou, who was an Oscar nominee.