ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek actress and recording artist Irene Papa, known for her dramatic performances and stunning beauty, has earned her leading roles over six decades in Hollywood films as well as in French and Italian cinema. has passed away. She was 93 years old.
The Greek Ministry of Culture confirmed his death on Wednesday.
“Brilliant, majestic, dynamic, Irene Papa was the personification of Greek beauty on the cinema screen and on the theatre, an international leading lady,” Culture Minister Lena Mendoni said in a statement. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described him as a source of “admiration and inspiration” for generations of Greeks.
Papa became internationally known after performances in “The Guns of Navaron” in 1961 and “Zorba the Greek” in 1964, starring alongside Hollywood stars Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn. In total, he acted in more than 50 films.
Born Irene Lelecou in the mountainous village of Chilimodi, Papa was the daughter of two school teachers. His father also taught drama.
She left home at the age of 18 to marry Greek film director Alkis Papa, despite her family’s disapproval. They got divorced after four years. After the death of American actor Marlon Brando in 2004, Papa revealed in an Italian newspaper interview that the two were romantically involved.
A supporter of the Greek Communist Party, Papa was an outspoken opponent of the military dictatorship that ruled the country between 1967 and 1974 and made much for life outside Greece, including Rome and New York.
Papa was also known for his appearance in ancient Greek tragedies. Portraying Greek characters earned him several prestigious international film roles. But he also starred opposite Kirk Douglas in the 1968 crime drama Brotherhood and opposite James Cagney in the 1956 western Tribute to a Bad Man.
The Greek Art Institutes thanked Papa for his support of the young actors. The Greek Film Center in Athens described her as “the greatest Greek international film star”, adding: “Her image is a timeless imprint of Greek female beauty.”
Papa publicly joked that he is often described as being three years older than his actual age. He began a 2004 interview with Greek state television by saying, “I was born on September 3, 1929. All the papers are in Chiliomody,” located near the southern Greek city of Corinth.