‘Zorba’ director dies at 89

Michael Cacoyannis was Oscar nominated

Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89.

Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and Candice Bergen. But he was best known internationally for the Academy Award-winning “Zorba the Greek” — the 1964 adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel. Composer Mikis Theodorakis’ score for the movie remains an enduring Greek anthem.

In the black-and-white movie, a scholarly Englishman, played by Alan Bates, travels to Crete to visit a coal mine he inherited. Alexis Zorbas, played by Anthony Quinn, is his grizzled and larger-than-life cook and fixer.

The movie won two technical awards at the 1965 Oscars and Lila Kedrova won for supporting actress. It was also nominated for best picture, director, actor and adapted screenplay.

Cacoyannis was born in the Cypriot port of Limassol in 1921, when the Mediterranean island was still a British colony. He studied law in London but soon pursued his interest in the arts, working for the BBC’s Greek service, studying drama and eventually acting in the theater.

After moving to Athens, Cacoyannis made his debut as a director with “Windfall in Athens” in 1954. Two years later, he won a Golden Globe for foreign-language film for “Stella,” starring Mercouri.

“His movies received awards at the most important film festivals in the world,” Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said. “His work became the vehicle that took Greek culture to every corner of the earth and served as a source of inspiration for Greek and foreign artists.”

Cacoyannis had no children and is survived by his sister Giannoula.

More Film

  • BlacKkKlansman

    Variety Critics Name the 12 Best Movies From Cannes 2018

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

  • DEADPOOL 2

    Box Office: 'Deadpool 2' Propels to $125 Million Opening

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

  • U.S.-China Film Talks Now Part of

    U.S.-China Film Talks Now Hostage to Trade War (Report)

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

  • Director Hirokazu Kore-eda holds the Palme

    Why 'Shoplifters' Director Hirokazu Kore-eda is Cannes' Favorite Japanese Auteur

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

  • John Cho Debra Messing Aneesh Chaganty

    'Searching' Takes Top Audience Award at L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

  • Happy as Lazzaro Cannes

    Netflix Buys Cannes Winners 'Happy as Lazzaro,' 'Girl' for North America, Latin America

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

  • Asia Argento arrives for the screening

    Asia Argento Makes Powerful Statement About Cannes' Role in Weinstein Scandal

    Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter Michael Cacoyannis, who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn, died Monday of complications from a heart attack and chronic respiratory problems at an Athens hospital. He was 89. Cacoyannis won multiple awards and worked with actors including Melina Mercouri, Irene Pappas, Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, and […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content