CULTURE

Cool, laid-back Yiannis Fertis

This is not just another regular year for actor Yiannis Fertis. Back on screen after a 17-year absence – he appears in Pantelis Pagoulatou’s «Sweet Dreams,» currently being shown at local cinemas – he has also returned, after no less than 42 years, to the Basement Stage at the Theatro Technis, where his career began in the first place. Co-starring alongside fellow veteran actor Angelos Angelopoulos, he takes on the role of the American interrogator of Wilhelm Furtwengler (when the celebrated conductor was accused of collaborating with the Nazis) in Ronald Harwood’s «Personal Symphony.» While the actor is satisfied with both projects, he likes to keep his distance. Why did you decide to go back to cinema? I would like to clarify something. I was away from the silver screen for 17 years. That does not mean, however, that my attitude was negative, absolutely not. I was offered roles but for various reasons I was unable to accept. Some of them were not interesting. I was acting on stage or in a television series and had no free time. So it was not really a decision. During the 1960s, I appeared in three films, without even reading the scripts. I did it for the money. It was the time when Xenia (Kalogeropoulou) and I had begun our own company and I felt bad. Why is that? Besides the theater, Xenia was also working on films, making money. So I could not play the dedicated artist. The company demanded funds and we wanted to back it properly. So I felt really bad, seeing Xenia making her contribution. I had to do something as well. And so I appeared in those three films without even looking at the scripts. Though I knew the directors, the producers, of course. And so you took the risk of taking the lead role in a director’s first full-length feature. What did I have to lose? I knew Pantelis Pagoulatou’s work, I had seen a short of his and liked it. Since the 1960s, you have witnessed the development of Greek cinema. Where do you think it stands today? I cannot offer an opinion because I have seen a limited number of films. But my feeling is that all those involved in cinema – the critics and the historians, are really fooling themselves. They have a preconceived idea about what a movie should be like and they get trapped. The same happened with our film, which they defined as a melodrama, and as reminiscent of old Greek films, or even too close to television. This made them unable to look any further. So you don’t really follow cinema? I followed cinema until the age of 35. Then things changed. When I started working as an actor, my only choice was to go to the movies before the theater. Or on Mondays. But I soon realized that I didn’t really want to see anything before going to the theater. I developed this function which left out anything else. The same happened with books. I barely read anymore. I start a book, but I tend to get carried away by irrelevant things. Like a soccer game, for instance. This is what I’m like. I feel that as the years go by, I am less of an «intellectual.» Or, perhaps, I never was one in the first place. Do you ever look back? Not at all. I even forget things recorded as successes. They don’t exist. I nearly feel that I never had a success. I know I’m exaggerating, but I want to be understood. I know I’m considered a good actor, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. What matters then? The future. I don’t dream of plays and parts. I only dream of taking part in projects that I feel good about. Just like I’m doing right now at the Theatro Technis’s Basement. Nothing else. What was it like appearing at the same theater where you took your first steps? I was moved, though not as much now as this past summer in a production of «Oedipus at Colonus,» a production which paid tribute to Giorgos Lazanis. I have to admit that the first rehearsals were strange, the seats, the pillars, as if it was yesterday. How do you remember yourself back then? Actually, I remember myself before drama school. At the age of 17, I was tremendously passionate about acting. I wish I had the same passion today. It was rather sick, actually, I was so lost. It was so important for me to graduate from the Theatro Technis drama school that I only applied to that particular school, running the risk of losing the entire school year. Aren’t you interested in participating in shows that make headlines? I want to be in plays I feel comfortable with. I listen to all the offers and I choose according to what makes me feel good. You might see me in a mainstream theater tomorrow. On the other hand, I really don’t care about performing in front of an audience of 30. You give the impression that you have adapted your work to your private life and not the other way round. Definitely, I was never one to dedicated myself entirely to the theater. I want to have a personal life, to fall in love and hang out with my friends. A few years ago, I also used to play cards, stay up late. A Panathinaikos die-hard, I also used to go to the matches. You gave that up? Yes, because it would be at the expense of my performance on stage. I could handle the fatigue when I was younger. I used to stay in on Saturday nights so that I could rest and build up my energy for Sunday’s soccer game and two performances. You have performed on stage with Greece’s most legendary actresses, including Melina Mercouri, Aliki Vouyiouklaki and Tzeni Karezi. Who made the greatest impression? Without any doubt Melina Mercouri. How could I not be impressed? I was 21-years-old and Melina was 39. That’s youth, you see. I was in a wild state back then!