Takis Emmanuel, 84, an actor associated with the first attempts of Greek cinema to reach an international audience in the 1960s, passed in Athens last Friday.
Born in 1933 in Mesolongi, Etoloakarnania, he graduated from the Athens Conservatory Drama School and made his stage debut in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, in Euripides’ Ifigenia. He made his film debut the same year playing in Nikos Koundouros’ drama The River. Over the ensuing years he appeared in some of the most acclaimed films to be made in Greece at the time: Takis Kannelopoulos’ The Sky, Koundouros’ Young Aphrodites and Michael Cacoyannis’ Electra and Zorba the Greek. These films became the stepping stone for him to pursue an international career in the late 60s, starting with Philip Saville’s film adaptation of Oedipus, starring Christopher Plummer (and featuring Orson Welles in the role of Tiresias).
Many films and TV series followed – even a cameo in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. In September 1970, he even made it to the cover of Life magazine, sporting a Moroccan caftan, as an embodiment of the flashy ‘new dandy look’ of the the new decade. In 1979 he became the iconic face of Greek Australians, starring in Paul Cox’s film, Kostas. A love story between an Australian woman (played by Wendy Hughes) and a Greek immigrant, Kostas was one of the first movies to show life in multicultural Australia. The film was an instant success and it holds a special place in the hearts of Greek Australians in general, and for this newspaper in particular.
The film’s hero Kostas was a journalist who migrated from Greece to Australia, where he was working as a taxi driver.
As the story unfolds, Kostas returns to journalism, working for a Greek newspaper in Melbourne – the scenes were shot in Neos Kosmos’ offices (then located in Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD), offering some rare insight into the day-to-day operations of the paper (and some glimpses of journalists and other members of our team). After that, Takis Emmanuel spent a couple of years in Los Angeles, where he studied film and TV production and screenwriting. In 1981 he played in the ABC series The Levkas Man; an Australian-German co-production, which told the story of a doctor who travelled to the Greek island of Lefkada to prove his groundbreaking anthropological theories. By that time, Takis had already returned to Greece, where he started his own production company (he had previously written and directed one film, Midnight at Villa Nelly in 1963).
Over his rich and globetrotting career, Takis appeared in 21 Greek films, 12 international features, and various TV series (most notably in the seminal 1077 BBC series Who Pays the Ferryman). He gradually retired from the film industry, and devoted himself to literature and writing novels, the last of which The Seventh Photo was published in 2007.
He remained close friends with his Electra co-stars Irene Papas and Yannis Fertis to the end.