An actor who plays on his own terms

Then Minas Hadzisavvas said he owed his State Quality Award for Best Actor (given for «Lilly’s Story» in November) to director Roviros Manthoulis, he meant it. He did not say it as a matter of form, nor in order to say something nice about the person who allowed him, yet again, to prove his substance as an actor. Hadzisavvas believes deeply in the film, its director and his role. He is not concerned with the lukewarm critiques of the Greek press even though they awarded more marks to his interpretation than the film, nor did he put stock in the film’s low theater turnout. Five years ago, he did battle with public opinion in defense of German director Matthias Langhoff’s staging of the State Theater of Northern Greece’s production of Euripides’ «Bacchae» at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus. Much of the Greek press had called the German «disrespectful,» arguing that he «abused» ancient drama. Accusatory headlines such as «Naked at Epidaurus» appeared above photographs of Hadzisavvas standing nude in the role of Dionysus. Back then, the veteran actor fervently defended Langhoff’s directorial approach. «Have you seen me in another ancient play since 1997?» asks Hadzisavvas. «After Langhoff, I will not do another. I get many proposals to appear at Epidaurus every year. I don’t play because I am not interested in the way ancient drama is presented. «I was 50 years old then, in 1997, and it changed the way I think about theater, especially ancient drama. The way Langhoff worked, the respect he showed for his actors, had a catalytic effect on me. I would like to work with him again. You know, I feel that the attack on him was very unfair, even to theater itself. Euripides, Aeschylus, lived and will continue to live after us. They have survived for 2,500 years. At the very least, we should not deprive ourselves of the opportunity to examine them. How come, for example, the English do not feel a paralyzing awe of Shakespeare and keep reinterpreting him? Personally, I am bored with going to Epidaurus and seeing the same thing over and over again, along with the actors’ anxiety to play their role differently from the last actor.» Hadzisavvas is one of the few Greek actors who, in 30 years of acting, has played so many different roles. «I would get really bored if I were typecast,» he admits.» His rich repertory continues without pause. In the past year, Hadzisavvas has played in six Greek films: «A Day at Night» by Giorgos Panousopoulos, «Tomorrow is Another Day» by Dora Masklavanou, «The Third Night» by Dimitris Panayiotatos, «The Cistern» by Christos Dimas, «Lilly’s Story» by Manthoulis and «The King» by Nikos Grammatikos. For the State Quality Awards, his only contender was himself as the jury wavered between «Lilly’s Story» and «The King.» In the theater, only weeks after ending his performance of «Faust,» he is getting ready to play Cyrano de Bergerac in a production by the Regional Theater of Patras directed by Nikaiti Kontouri. He enjoys the huge number of productions he is involved in though his career never really went through a slump, even at the beginning of his theatrical career when he started out as a founding member of the Free Theater. He has appeared in many National Theater performances, but his star quality essentially developed when he played alongside Giorgos Michailidis in the Anoichto Theatro company. «I owe all of my maturity as an actor to Giorgos Michailidis,» says Hadzisavvas. «He trusted me and gave me leading roles.» He has played Shakespeare, John Ford, ancient drama, modern repertory theater, both Greek and foreign. He has never balked at appearing nude on stage («The Tempest,» «’Tis Pity She’s a Whore»). «Being nude is like being dressed,» he asserts. «Why should I hide something I think of as perfectly natural?» He uses the same daring when choosing who to work with, his roles and trying new trends, though he never forgets the fundamental values. «I think that the innocence I have as a person has helped me a lot. I am not suspicious of others. I am open, straightforward. I need to feel in touch with people. I can’t be alone, without friends. I always feel open to new experiences, to things I see on the street, things I see in my colleagues, in other shows, in paintings, in art, generally. All this input is ‘translated’ at the right time, on stage, after is has been filtered by the individual’s personality,» explains Hadzisavvas. How does he see drama in Greece – played on over 300 stages – today? «Out of this medley, there is hope that some things will survive and stay on. Nothing is ever wasted. Those who survive will move ahead. Young artists, new groups. Something will remain from all of this. It is just like in a revolution: Something is lost and something survives.» ‘Old, good Greek cinema. Rubbish!’ Theater and film are closely intertwined for Minas Hadzisavvas and early on, he started observing Greek cinema closely and giving his support to young filmmakers. «I think that modern Greek cinema is coming very close to winning over its public,» he says. «The new generation of filmmakers is close to discovering what a screenplay means and to attracting people to movie theaters. Why has the audience turned away from Greek cinema? A lot of people say because the glory days [in the 1960s and ’70s] are over. Rubbish! Most of those were bad films with excellent actors. There were exceptions, of course. At the time, the rest of Europe was in an orgy of trends and movements. Back then, my generation was trying to make films similar to those of France and to get rid of all the cliches of the old cinema. This brought new forms which were not part of the culture. «Just as the Turkish occupation deprived us of the Renaissance, the old, bad Greek cinema deprived us of evolution. We went to the other extreme without having experienced the renaissance. Contemporary Greek cinema is, I think, a lot more a part of the culture.»

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