Oscar Directors: Cacoyannis, Michael

Born Mikhalis Kakogiannis on June 11, 1922, in Limassol, Cyprus, of Greek parentage. The son of a knighted Cypriot lawyer and political leader, he studied and practiced law in England. During WW II, he produced Greek programs for the BBC and attended acting and directing schools. He joined the Old Vic Company in 1946 and made his acting debut in “Salome” the same year.

After giving up acting in 1951, for two years he unsuccessfully sought directing assignments in Britain and the U.S. He returned to Greece and in 1953 began directing his first film, “Windfall in Athens.” His next feature, “Stella” (1955), starred Melina Mercouri and won several international awards.

Cacoyannis' reputation as Greece's leading film director was established by “Electra” (1961), considered by some as the finest screen interpretation of a Greek tragedy. He later gained popular recognition with “Zorba the Greek” (1964), for which he received an Oscar nomination.

As a noted stage director of classical plays, he received critical praise for his off-Broadway production “The Trojan Women” (1963). In 1986, he returned to films after a long absence with “Sweet Country.”

Oscar Context:

In 1964, Cacoyannis competed for the Best Director Oscar with George Cukor, who won for “My Fair Lady,” Peter Glenville for “Becket,” Stanley Kubrick for “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bob,” and Robert Stevenson for “Mary Poppins.”