Michael Cacoyannis Biography

Michael Cacoyannis (11 June 1922 – 25 July 2011) was a prominent Greek Cypriot filmmaker from Cyprus, best known for his 1964 film Zorba the Greek. He directed the 1983 Broadway revival of the musical based on the film. Much of his work was rooted in classical texts, especially those of the Greek tragedian Euripides. He was nominated for an Academy Award five times, a record for any Greek Cypriot film artist. He received Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film nominations for Zorba the Greek, and two nominations in the Foreign Language Film category for Electra and Iphigenia.

Michalis (or Mikhalis) Kakogiannis was born in 1922 in Limassol, Cyprus as Μιχάλης Κακογιάννης. In 1939, he was sent by his father, Sir Panayotis Loizou Cacoyannis, to London to become a lawyer. However, after producing Greek-language programs for the BBC World Service during World War II, He ended up at the Old Vic school, and enjoyed a brief stage career there under the name Michael Yannis before he began working on films. After having trouble finding a directing job in the British film industry, Cacoyannis moved to Greece, and in 1953 he made his first film, Windfall in Athens.

He was offered the chance to direct Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando in the film Reflections in a Golden Eye, but declined. He had worked on many occasions with the Greek actress Irene Papas and especially Elli Lambeti with whom he was in love. Between 1959 and 1967, he was in a relationship with Yael Dayan, a progressive Israeli politician and author. In 1971, he teamed up once more with Papas for the film The Trojan Women.

Cacoyannis died on 25 July 2011 in Athens, aged 89.