Irene Papas was born Irene Lelekou (Ειρήνη Λελέκου) in Chiliomodi outside Corinth, Greece. She began her early career in Greece, 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 Elektra.
She has also appeared in the film, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, and worked in theatre in Portugal.
International awards and honours
- 1962: Thessaloniki International Film Festival'(Best Actress, for the film Electra) — won
- 1962: Union of Greek Film Critics (Best Actress, for the film Electra) — 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
- She was discovered by Elia Kazan.
- Federico Fellini was a huge admirerer of her work.
- She was a close friend of Katharine Hepburn, with whom she co-starred in The Trojan Women. Hepburn once said that Papas was "one of the best actresses in the history of cinema".
- 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.
- "Falling in love is like death... they are both facts".
- "Melina Mercouri was a star. I am a struggling idealist".
- "I never wanted to play sensational parts, or those of desirable women. I wanted to play me... the independent fighter...".
- "I never won an Oscar... and the Oscars never won Irene Papas".
- Irene Papas — from Classic Movies