Hollywood’s Greek Super Couple:Hanks and Wilson

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For the past two years, the honorary chairs and guest hosts of the annual L.A. Greek Festival at the Saint Sophia Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles have been none other than Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson. Rita and Tom have a personal connection with the church — they got married there and they baptized their children there. But do Hanks and Wilson sound like Greek names? As Tom Hanks joked at the 2008 L.A. Greek Fest, “Since I have an “S” at the end of my name, I am more Greek than my wife.” Well, maybe not…

Actually, Rita Wilson was born Margarita Ibrahimov in Los Angeles in 1956 to a Bulgarian father and Greek mother. When her parents emigrated to the U.S., they changed their last name to Wilson which was the name of the street they lived on. Rita attended Hollywood High School and went on to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in England.

Thomas Jeffrey Hanks, also born in California in 1956, was raised Catholic. Tom acted in school plays while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, California. He got his big break on the television sitcom “Bosom Buddies” (1980-1982). Hanks moved into serious movie roles and won two academy awards for best actor two years in a row for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994).

Tom and Rita first met when Rita appeared on one episode of “Bosom Buddies” in 1981, but they didn’t get to know each other until working on the set of the movie “Volunteers” in 1985. Tom divorced his first wife, Samantha Lewes, in 1987. He has two children from his first marriage, Colin and Elizabeth.

On April 30, 1988, Tom and Rita had their own big fat Greek wedding (it was Rita’s first marriage) at Saint Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles. Hanks converted from Roman Catholicism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. They have two sons, Chester and Truman. To celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in 1998, Hanks and Wilson threw a Greek-themed party with a Greek band playing for 100 of their closest friends. Later that night, Hanks, who is a huge fan of ’60s rock and roll, hired a Beatles tribute band to play at the event.

In recent years, Tom and Rita have been involved in many Greek-themed movie projects. Hanks and Wilson were the producers of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002) which became the highest-grossing independent movie of all time, with over $200 million in revenue. Wilson is credited for securing the movie deal for the film’s writer and star, Nia Vardalos, after seeing Vardalos’ one-woman play of the same name in Los Angeles.

In an interview with Filmcritic.com in 2002, Nia Vardalos explained how important Hanks and Wilson were to the success of the movie: “Tom and Rita insisted on it to being Greek all the way. In fact, there was a scene where a character was wearing jeans and supposedly the family had just gotten back from church. Tom knew that no Greek Orthodox practitioner wears jeans to church, so he astutely made the appropriate changes that everyone else missed. So often the converts are more zealous than those born into the church.”

This year, Hanks and Wilson are both executive producers for the movie “Mamma Mia”, based on the widely successful musical featuring music by the Swedish group, ABBA. The movie, released in July, stars Meryl Streep and was filmed in Greece.

Hanks and Wilson are also the executive producers of an upcoming movie starring Nia Vardalos called “My Life in Ruins”, about a travel guide who rediscovers her romantic side on a trip around Greece, to be released in May 2009.

In addition to all the projects they are involved with behind the scenes, both Hanks and Wilson continue to appear in front of the camera as well. Tom Hanks has been filming “Angels and Demons” with director Ron Howard to be released in May 2009. Rita Wilson will appear in the movie “Old Dogs” which stars Robin Williams and John Travolta to be released in April 2009.

So, whether they are behind the scenes supporting a Greek-themed movie project or appearing in person at the Los Angeles Greek church, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are proof that the Greek community does have an ever-present voice in Hollywood.

“Arcadia Lost” is now filming in Greece

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Yilliki Lake, shooting an old abandoned boat.

Two-time Oscar nominated actor Nick Nolte has been cast as a lead in Arcadia Lost, an independent film from Chambers Productions movie division that began shooting September 1, 2008 in Greece. Nolte will star as Benerji, an ex-patriot American who meets Haley Bennett (Charlotte) and Carter Jenkins (Sye), two stranded teenagers wandering after an auto accident. Filming will take advantage of Greece’s ancient and modern landscape, expertly captured by Phedon Papamichael (W. , 3:10 to Yuma, Sideways, Walk the Line), one of Hollywood’s best known cinematographers. The five-week shoot directed by Phedon will be Papamichael’s fourth directorial project. Parts of the movie are filmed in Leonidion, a Greek Village that the director calls “paradise”. Papamichael also owns a house in the area.
Born in Athens to Phedon Papamichael Sr., an art director, gives him a lifetime of unique perspectives in telling this story. Arcadia Lost’s production is supported by Top Cut, one of Greece’s premier production companies.
Arcadia Lost can be followed by film fans on a social website, “Follow A Film” on Facebook. Social media trends are important to film marketing and Chambers is pioneering this site to bring filmmaking to everyday moviegoers around the world. Arcadia Lost is a co-production of Chambers Productions with Roadworks Pictures.

Full cast and Credits:

Cast

Haley Bennett – Charlotte

Carter Jenkins – Sye

Nick Nolte – Benerji

Lachlan Buchanan – Raffi

Dato Bakhtadze – Gorgo

Alex Zorbas – Desmond

Alexandra Pavlidou – Alisa

Nicholas Marmaras – Georgie

Anthony Burk – Cook

Renos Haralambidis – Manager

Credits

Phedon Papamichael – Director

Kelly Thomas – Producer

Jim Ivory – Executive Producer

David Ariniello – Screen Writer

Stamatis Athanasoulas – Top Cut

Amanda Livanou – Line Producer

Kenny McLelland – Art Director

Yorgos Papadimitriou – Production Manager

Dimitris Apostolou – 1st Assistant Director

George Markakis – 2nd Assistant Director

Lena Chatzimitrou – Production Manager Assistant

Stelios Pissas – Camera Operator

George Striftaris – Casting Director

A US tour and new international albums by Yannatou and Tsabropoulos

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Today  ECM Records will release two new albums by marvelous Greek artists : Vassilis Tsabropoulos and Savina Yannatou.

Melos- Pianist/composer Vassilis Tsabropoulos and cellist Anja Lechner have made a gorgeous second recording following their 2004 runaway success Chants, Hymns and Dances.

Vassilis Tsabropoulos was born in Athens, and attended the conservatories of Athens, Paris and Salzburg, before completing his studies at the Juilliard School, where his teachers included Rudolf Serkin and Tatyana Nikolayeva. He is well-known in his homeland as an interpreter of the classical tradition, and has performed internationally as a soloist and under conductors including Vladimir Ashkenazy and Robert Janssens. He is also highly regarded as a jazz pianist, and was encouraged in his improvisational activities by Chick Corea.

– Songs of An Other – Savina Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico will support their third album on ECM with concerts in the USA:

September 18  Los Angeles, CA          American Asian Museum Plaza

September 19  Albuquerque                ¡Globaquerque!

September 20  Albuquerque                ¡Globaquerque!

September 21  Chicago, IL                  Chic World Music Fest – Old Town School of Folk Music

September 27  New York                     Symphony Space / World Music Institute

Born in Athens, Yannatou studied at the National Conservatory. While still a student she sang for Greek National Radio 3, under the direction of composer Manos Hadjidakis. In the ensuing years she explored a range of options from renaissance and baroque music to contemporary composition as well as Greek “entechno” art songs. In the early 90s she experimented with free improvisation, with both Greek and international collaborators and began to work also with a circle of Thessaloniki-based musicians who formed the band Primavera en Salonico for her recording of Sephardic folk songs from the region. The group is now in its 15th year, its progress informed by its members range of activities,

Hanks & Wilson at the LA Greek Festival

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Hollywood’s favorite super-star couple Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson will once again serve as honorary chairs and celebrity guest hosts of the L.A. Greek Fest “10th Anniversary Spectacular” –  highlighted by the exciting “Passport to a Grecian Holiday” theme and presented Sept. 5-7 on the Grand Plaza grounds of Saint Sophia Cathedral.

“This is our Tenth Year Anniversary and we’re going to celebrate the event in spectacular style,” enthuses Fest director Ted Pastras. “We’ll have a lot of show biz celebrities from Hollywood and people from all over Southern California coming to the Byzantine Latino Quarter to enjoy this event. Tom and Rita are great friends, and part of the Cathedral family, and they’re lending their star power to our festival so that the people of the Southland can appreciate all the fun & excitement of the Greek Islands – right here in the city of the angels.

L A Magazine has recognized the L A GREEK FEST as one of the “must-see, must-do” September events in Los Angeles.  Because of its prominence in the community and singularly unique presentation format, Hollywood Celebrities and VIP dignitaries come from all over Los Angeles and the west coast to visit throughout the weekend.

The Fest and Cathedral are located at 1324  S. Normandie Ave., (corner of Pico and Normandie).  Free & secure parking will be available nearby and shuttle service will be offered continuously to satellite lots.  The Fest runs 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm on Friday Sept. 5;   Saturday Sept. 6,  1:00pm – 11:00 pm and Sunday Sept.7, 12 noon –10 p.m.   Admission is free to everyone on Friday night; and $5 for adults on Saturday and Sunday.  (Kids under 12 will be admitted free of charge all weekend long).

Trisha’s new Super Sexy calendar 4 a good cause!

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Patricia Kara has been featured in many magazines and calendars in addition to her TV appearances, but now it was the right time for her to create her own calendar which will be available for purchase on PatriciaKara.com in October.

We had the chance to talk to her and she seemed really happy and excited about all this.

“This is my first “Official” 2009 calendar. It took 3 separate photo shoots to complete the calendar and it was all shot in Los Angeles. It’s been quite the process.  I have been working on every aspect of the calendar with my photographer… from the shoot, to editing, to the layout. I have been in calendars before, but for years I wanted to do my own calendar and the time was right. This is my 20th year in the entertainment business.  I am hoping for the 2010 calendar I am able to do the photo shoot in Greece.”

This year is going really well for Patricia who has just started her daily appearances on the daily “Deal or no Deal”. The calendar release will be in October and a portion of the proceeds will be going towards the charity “Women for Women International”. You can learn more about the organization here.

To purchase the calendar go to Patricia’s official website store www.PatriciaKara.com.

Photo Credit: www.chazphotographics.com

MTV goes Greek!

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Yesterday the Greek MTV went on air for the first time. The Greek subsidiary of MTV is still searching for young and passionate people with fresh ideas to host future shows that will be produced in Greece and abroad.

During summer 2007, Victor Restis acquired the rights to operate the Greek branch of MTV after a bidding war against Minos Kiriakou (who owns ANT1 and Macedonia TV) and Andreas Kouris who operates MAD (MAD was the first music channel to operate in Greece).

MTV Greece is broadcasting local and international music, as well as MTV’s trademark shows which are shown with subtitles in Greek. Currently it only broadcasts in Athens, but there are plans for a national broadcast sometime in the future.

Documentary Film Entries Due September 2 for 2008 Oscars®

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Tuesday, September 2, is the deadline for filmmakers to submit their short subject and feature documentaries to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for consideration for the 81st Academy Awards®.

Each completed entry form must be accompanied by supporting materials, including an English-language synopsis of the film, a list of film credits, filmographies of the director(s) and/or producer(s), 25 DVD copies of the film, and proof of a seven-day qualifying exhibition.

To be eligible, documentary features must have completed a seven-day commercial run in at least one theater in both Los Angeles County and in the Borough of Manhattan in New York, between September 1, 2007, and August 31, 2008.

Documentary short subjects must have completed a seven-day commercial run in a theater in either Los Angeles County or in the Borough of Manhattan in New York, between September 1, 2007, and August 31, 2008.

Members of the Academy’s Documentary Branch will determine the nominees for both the Documentary Short Subject and Documentary Feature categories.

Additional information about the documentary awards may be obtained by contacting Assistant Awards Coordinator Michelle Ayala at (310) 247-3000, ext. 117; via e-mail at mayala@oscars.org; or by visiting http://www.oscars.org/81academyawards/rules.

The 81st Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 22, 2009, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

At the 80th Academy Awards, “Freeheld” and “Taxi to the Dark Side” won in the Documentary Short Subject and Documentary Feature categories, respectively.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar® presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Bob Costas anchors Olympics for the 7th time

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No sporting event has a wider scope than an Olympic telecast. Sportscaster Bob Costas, born Robert Quinlan Costas, has been anchoring the Olympic Games for NBC since the early 1990s, including Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000, Salt Lake City in 2002, Athens in 2004, Turin in 2006, and now Beijing during the summer of 2008. The 2008 Opening Ceremonies on NBC had an estimated 17 million households watching in the United States.

Costas, raised by an Irish-American mother and Greek-American father, was born in 1952 in Queens, New York and grew up in Commack, New York. His sportscasting career started while attending Syracuse University as an announcer for the Syracuse Blazers minor hockey team.

At age 22, Bob Costas joined KMOX radio in St. Louis to announce St. Louis Spirits´ basketball games. His intelligence, humor and presence during his seven years at KMOX led to a longtime union with NBC Sports which he joined in 1980.

Throughout the 28 years Costas has been with NBC, he has proven his versatility in football, basketball and baseball. Costas anchored NBC’s pre-and post-game shows for NFL broadcasts from 1984 to 1992 on “The NFL on NBC.” In 2006, Costas returned to studio hosting duties covering the NFL on NBC on the “Football Night in America” show.

In 1997, Costas began a three-year stint as the lead play-by-play man for “The NBA on NBC,” filling in for Marv Albert who was temporarily removed from his duties due to a personal scandal. Costas stepped aside when Marv Albert returned in 2000.

Costas anchored NBC’s pre- and post-game shows for the World Series and Major League Baseball All-Star Games during the 1980s (the first being for the 1982 World Series). Costas didn’t do play-by-play for an All-Star Game until 1994 and a World Series until 1995. It wasn’t until 1997 when Costas finally got the chance to do play-by-play for a World Series from start to finish. As a result, Costas won a Sports Emmy Award for “Outstanding Sports Personality, Play-by-Play” that year.

Costas’ superb interviewing skills were honed on his show “Later with Bob Costas” which aired on NBC from 1988 to 1994. This show featured Costas interviewing a single guest one-on-one for the entire half hour. Many times, the interviews were extended over multiple nights. Costas’ interviewing skills enable him to feel comfortable interviewing anyone from 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps to President Bush, who took some time to speak with Bob while he was in town attending the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Costas has a special love for baseball, and he wrote a book in 2001 called “Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball,” a manifesto on the problems with the game of professional baseball, which had people suggesting Costas should be baseball commissioner.

Costas has two children from his first marriage to Carole Randall Krumenacher. He is now married to Jill Sutton. Bob’s current radio show, “Costas on the Radio”, airs on 200 stations nationwide each weekend on Premiere Radio Networks. Costas also hosts a monthly sports show on HBO called “Costas
Now”.

Feeling the pulse with dance music DJ Themis

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The sounds emanating from the ground floor of an otherwise normal home are coming from the studio of DJ-remixer Themis. The music is a bit of house/trance and a touch of techno the new age of dance music. Themi has honed into this genre and has capitalized on it. From the age of fifteen Themi has always been drawn to music. “My mixing skills started to create a buzz, and before I knew it I was DJ’ing 2 or 3 parties every weekend.”

Then when he reached seventeen he began to develop his own lyrics and backup music. Essentially he began to produce his own sound and words. He in turn taught himself how to play the keyboards which opened another avenue of development.

Dance music has always been a driving force for Themi. “Music is my passion and Dance Music has always been a big part of my life. I approached Dance music because of all the positive energy that the music gives.” Themi has targeted that passion and passed it on to his music.

In his studio it allows him to create music from the comfort of his own home. First he begins by either creating the music for the song or writing the lyrics and melody first then develops the music later. Once the music is created and all the lyrics are done he goes into arranging the track and finally mixing it down and making sure that the sound is right and ready for release.

Themi has had the pleasure to have worked with Chris “The Greek” Panaghi on several original tracks as well as remixes that he has done for Chris. “One Remix that I remixed for Chris helped the project to hit the top 5 on the Billboard Dance Chart in 2007. I also collaborated on a track with Chris that was featured on the Water Dance Music Label distributed by Universal in 2007. Chris is a great guy and a very talented Producer/Remixer; I have learned a lot form him over the years.” Themi has also done some keyboard work for Sweet Rains Records out of New York. Sweet Rains co-wrote the song “Melting With The Sun”, with Dance Music Artist Amber.

The feedback coming in from Themi’s recent release on Amathus “You’re The One” has been amazing since its release in June of 2008. Amathus Music is the record label that it has been released on. “They have some big time promoters pushing the song and we are very excited! Amber, the featured vocalist on the track, has an amazing voice and is a talented singer and songwriter!!”.

Themi is currently working on the next Electrik Pulse Release as well as a few remixes that will be released soon. He has some new original tracks that he is working on with various artists and producers.
In the dance music scene there are not many Greek’s involved and Themi reflected in that fact. “It has always amazed me that we don’t have many Greeks involved in Dance Music especially knowing the Greek Culture and how much we love the music and love to dance. I think the few Greeks that are involved in the Dance Music Scene should come together. Who knows maybe we could have a future project in store showcasing the Greek Talent that is in the Dance scene. Maybe things will change in the future, I would love to see more Greeks involved in Dance Music as I love Greek Dance Music. There are a lot of very talented producers and singers and I would definitely say that it is at the same caliber as other European music.”

One of Themi’s proudest accomplishments was when his remix of Chris “The Greek” Panaghis’s song titled “Pump” aided in helping the single become the top “Breakout” on the Billboard Dance Music Chart in 2007. “I was smiling for week’s. It was a great feeling and I was truly blessed to be a part of the project!”
His family has always supported him from the start. “I’m truly grateful and blessed to have such a supportive family and friends as well. I will never forget all the support from my family and friends, it means a lot to me and keeps the passion burning to create more.”

Themi is always on the go and on the look out for more creative ways to expand his music. “I just want to keep working on music and working with various producers and vocalists. Creating Music lifts my spirits and it’s definitely my passion!!”

To experience Themi’s music go to www.amathusmusic.com.

Yani Begakis dies at 81

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photo credit: Alex Vacca for GHR

Yani Begakis, passed away at Cedars Sinai on August 12. He had been hospitalized and in critical condition since returning from a press junket in Athens at the beginning of July. Two months before his death he opened his house for GHR and talked about his adventurous life on camera. (watch the interview here)

He was five-time President and a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for 48 years an organization that he served with dignity and hard work. His passion was going to the movies and this is why he served the movie industry as a journalist. He had a long association writing for Japan’s SCREEN magazine.

Begakis was born to Greek parents in
Constantinople (Istanbul) on October 16, 1926. He lost his father at the age of five and grew up with his mother, sister, and older brother. While going to school, he worked at the local movie theatre where he learned English by watching American movies. He moved to Hollywood in his twenties and then brought also his family with him. He was the unofficial “ambassador” of Greece in Hollywood, and helped numerous Greek people to break into the industry.

Along with his sister and his late niece, he founded the non-profit organization the Hellenic Society of Constantinople. His awards included the International Media Award from the Publicist Guild of America.
Yani is survived by his sister, Kleo Lee, his nephew Alex Kazanegras, first cousin Danae Dame, nephews Nick Begakis, and Mike Begakis, and their families. Services will be held at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 19.
For more information, call Forest Lawn (800) 204-3131. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Hellenic Society, 936 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90046.

To learn more about Yani’s life and career continue reading here.