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Greek Oscar Winners Over the Decades: Academy Awards

Greek Oscar Winners
Greek actor Katina Paxinou won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1944. Credit: Courtesy of AMPAS

Five Greek Oscar winners have existed throughout the glamorous history of the Academy Awards. At 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.

The Greek Oscar Winners

Katina Paxinou

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, the Greek Oscar winner 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,” Paxinou said in her remarks.

Manos Hadjidakis

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

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.”

Vangelis Papathanassiou

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.

Costa-Gavras

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.

In addition to Greek Oscar winners there are also many Greek Americans who have won Oscars.

The Academy Awards

The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded as the most famous and prestigious awards in the entertainment industry around the world. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements, as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership.

The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette as a trophy, officially called the “Academy Award of Merit”, although more commonly referred to by its nickname, the “Oscar”. The statuette depicts a knight rendered in the Art Deco style. The award was originally sculpted by George Stanley from a design sketch by Cedric Gibbons. AMPAS first presented it in 1929 at a private dinner hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in what would become known as the 1st Academy Awards.

The Academy Awards ceremony was first broadcast by radio in 1930 and was televised for the first time in 1953. It is the oldest worldwide entertainment awards ceremony and is now televised live worldwide. It is also the oldest of the four major annual American entertainment awards; its equivalents – the Emmy Awards for television, the Tony Awards for theater, and the Grammy Awards for music – are modeled after the Academy Awards. They are widely cited as the most famous and prestigious competitive awards in the field of entertainment. Greeks have won Oscars only in a few categories, but Greek Americans are often featured in the awards.

The Academy officially adopted the name “Oscar” for the trophies in 1939. However, the origin of the nickname is disputed. In addition to the Academy Award of Merit (Oscar award), there are nine honorary (non-competitive) awards presented by the Academy from time to time, including the Governors Awards, The Academy Honorary Award (annual) (which may or may not be in the form of an Oscar statuette), The Academy Scientific and Technical Awards: The Academy Student Academy Awards (annual), The Academy also awards Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.

Greek Oscar Nominees in the 2021 Academy Awards

The Greeks who are nominated for the 2021 Oscars are Phaedon Papamichael for the photography direction of Aaron Sorkin’s “Trial of 7 in Chicago” and George Lambrinos for the editing of “The Father” by Florian Zeller.

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