Alexander Payne, the acclaimed filmmaker, became a Greek citizen during a swearing-in ceremony that took place on Monday, February 7, 2022, at the Consulate General of Greece in Boston.
In an announcement, the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles said it “was proud to initiate and complete the application process for Mr. Payne’s Greek citizenship. Welcome to our Greek family!”
Payne is best known for the films Citizen Ruth (1996), Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011), Nebraska (2013) and Downsizing (2017). They are noted for their dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society.
Payne is a two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and a three-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director.
Payne was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Peggy and George Payne, who were restaurant owners.
Alexander Payne’s Greek roots
His father is of Greek and German descent, and his mother is of Greek ancestry. Payne’s paternal grandfather, Nicholas “Nick” Payne, anglicized his last name from “Papadopoulos.” His family comes from three areas in Greece: the island of Syros, Livadia, and Aegio.
In a recent interview on Canadian television, Payne talked extensively about his Greek roots.
“I am a Greek from Omaha. My grandfather arrived in Omaha around 1912 still named Nikos Papadopoulos. There had been an anti-Greek riot, so by 1915, he saw fit to change his name and not to simply shorten it to “Pappas” as a lot of Greeks do, but to totally Americanize it.
“Greeks cling to their identity…Growing up in Omaha I had a sense of being part of a subculture and looking out through the bubble of being Greek-American.”
Several personalities have become honorary Greek citizens in the last few years
In January 2021 prominent British historian Mark Mazower attended a ceremony awarding him Greek citizenship. The Ira D. Wallach Professor of History at Columbia University in New York City was honored for “the promotion of Greece, its long history and its culture to the international general public.”
Last September, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s mother Veronika and his brother Alexandros officially became Greek citizens.
In the same month, English author Victoria Hislop was officially sworn-in as a Greek citizen during a special ceremony in Athens for her work promoting modern Greece’s history and culture.
In 2019, Greece granted Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson citizenship citing their “exceptional services to Greece.”
The pair brought massive media attention and resources to help with the devastating wildfires of July 2018. The most tragic fire killed 102 people in the seaside town of Mati, northeast of Athens.
Wilson is Greek-American, and Hanks is an active part of the Greek Orthodox Church to which he has converted. Hanks often speaks about his love for Greece and the Greek people, as he considers himself an enormous Hellenophile.