“Stratos Tzortzoglou the last student of Karolos Koun is coming back”
Stratos Tzortzoglou appeared for the first time in the performance“Sound of the Gun” by Loula Anagnostaki at Karolos Koun Art Theater.
Apart from Karolos Koun, he has worked on stage with famed Greek directors Minos Volanakis , Jules Dassin((Academy Award-nominated,Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Rififi), Spyros Evangelatos, Roula Pateraki, Andreas Voutsinas ,Giannis Kokkos and Angela Brouskou.
He has also worked in film with directors such as Theo Angelopoulos(Palm d’Or in Cannes festival), Michael Cacoyannis(5 time Academy Award nominee), Pantelis Voulgaris, Eva Bergman and Bruno Coppola, and alongside such actresses as Catherine Deneuve(Academy Award for best Actress for Indochine), Irene Papas(Electra,Z,Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), Lena Endre(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Sarah Douglas(Conan the Destroyer,Falcon Crest,Superman)and Harvey Keitel(Ulysses Gaze) .
Last but not least he has had a long career as a TV actor, rendering him the most recognizable and beloved star of his generation in Greece.
In 1994 he was named Best Actor at the Greek National Awards.
Five times Academy Award nominee Michael Cacoyannis (Zorba the Greek-Trojan Women,Iphigenia) described him as “that rare phenomenon, a natural who combines striking good looks with that special brand of talent which blends a fiery temperament with easy personal charm,” while Theodoros Angelopoulos(Landscape in the mist-Ulysses Gaze) talked of him as someone who “can absorb everything, turning this to an advantage” and Ingmar Bergman (Nominated for 9 Oscars) compared Stratos to a Stradivarius violin.
Stratos moved permanently to NY and just finished 3 films
“Three Way Week”directed by Bruno Coppola
“The Rainbow Experiment”directed by Christina Kallas
(role:Nicky Kazan – The story takes place in a high school where things spiral out of control when a terrible accident involving a science experiment injures a kid for life).
“Subterranean Love” directed by Robert Haufrecht(role :Dimitru -.Two people, an older man and a somewhat (40s) younger woman, with conflicting needs, with emotional luggage, who at some point try to come together).
Stratos is now working on 3 projects in development such as
“If I only Knew”written By Kevin Honbarger (role:Butch -The line between good and evil is as close as our next heartbeat. Meredith knows a life filled with violence, while Jason knows a life filled with opportunity. If these two are going to find the love of a lifetime, they must come to understand that the path will not follow anything either has ever known, but they must understand each other’s path and forge their own, together.),
“Michael Wardeath” directed by Steven Bonds (role:Sherriff Christos-trying to use the ritual crisis to explore simultaneously god, man, society, and on the other side ,our own tragic fate of love and compassion).
My dreams are to inspire and empower people around the world, help them to transform their lives and live a Life they truly love.
I’m an actor. First and foremost I’m an actor. That’s what I live for.
I live to be an actor. That’s why I wake up in the morning.
I have made TV, starred in hundreds of plays in theatre and in some very distinctive films, like Landscape in the Mist (Silver Lion in Venice in 1988 and Best European Film Award in 1989).
I have worked on stage with the most famous Greek directors, Minos Volanakis, Jules Dassin, Spyros Evangelatos, Roula Pateraki, Andreas Voutsinas, Giannis Kokkos,Angela Brouskou.
I have made films with directors such as Theo Angelopoulos, Michael Cacoyannis, Pantelis Voulgaris, Nikos Panayotopoulos.
What am I doing here, starting all over in New York?
I had this dream since I was a boy. The dream of playing everywhere, of reaching everyone, of playing in a language that everyone understands.
By moving here in NY I am also facing the challenge of having to play in a language that is not my own.
I read somewhere that only 7% of communication is verbal. Tone of voice, body language, face expression and, most importantly, a person’s energy contain more information than words do.
I am facing another, very unusual challenge.
I came from a country where everyone recognized me wherever I went – to a country where no one knows me or how famous I am. I am an alien here in NY.
The thing is I always was an alien. I was an alien when I was starting out. I grew up in a very poor corner of Greece, in Piraeus, my family was poor, my father was a sailor and a junk dealer, my mother worked as a waitress in a hospital, for as long as I remember myself as a kid we were living in one room, my parents, my brother and me. I had this wild dream of being an actor…
How did that dream come about?
I remember the moment pretty well. I was five…
My mother whom I adored – you know she had me when she was 14 years old so she was a girl, a teenager when I was growing up – took me to my first movie. It was an old black and white comedy and my mother was laughing throughout. She was happy, perhaps it was one of the very few times I have seen her happy in my life. And I had that fantasy that I would take a knife and slash the screen open and get inside that movie and be part of what made my mother happy. Then later on an open air theater opened in our neighborhood and since I had no money to get in I would sneak my way into the neighboring building and to the rooftop and I would watch the performances night after night. The same play every night for a month – after a few days I knew the play by heart, I would speak the lines together with the actors. Sometimes I would get into the theater through the back door and spend hours hiding backstage, watching the actors get dressed and made up.
Once I was cast in a school play by mistake – I was a very bad student so they would never cast me but the kid who was going to play got sick three days before the performance and none of the other kids would take it on because they were afraid of the ridicule, so I guess I jumped on the opportunity. It was an experience I will never forget.
All of those kids, 700 of them, laughing and through their laughing becoming one, and I was creating that oneness… It was magical.
I had found my natural environment.
I finally felt at home. The stage was my home. It was the only place I did not feel like an alien.
When I was 21, I had just finished high school and my service at the army too, and all I wanted to be was an actor but I didn’t know how you became an actor. Someone told me I should apply at an actors school but I had no money and I felt like they would never take me anyway. The giant of the time was Karolos Koun who had founded the experimental Art Theater and its drama school, and who had brought plays by Bertolt Brecht, Luigi Pirandello, Jean Genet, Federico Garcia Lorca and Eugene Ionesco for the first time to Athens. He had won prizes at international festivals, and he was part of that legendary generation of Greek artists, you know, Hatzidakis, Tsarouchis, Gatsos, Christou, Manou, Merkouri… Of course I knew nothing of that at the time. How would I?
And I became his last student.
I dared to audition.But firstly I saw him on TV one day and I liked him so much that all I wanted was to be his student.
He smiled like a kid. He would say the most serious intellectual things but he had that innocent smile, like a kid. I could connect to that.
I auditioned and he accepted me with a scholarship. It sounds like a fairy tale. And I thought I could finally be a student. But two months later he cast me in his last play, The Sound of a Gun, and he forbid me to go to any more classes.
He didn’t teach me.He didn’t want me to be taught. He didn’t direct me. He would direct me by asking me questions about the character I was playing. Emotional questions. He subtly led me to finding the character so I could be the character. Funny thing. Like you do in the workshops.
Koun died just a few months after he found me.
That’s also when I met Elia Kazan.
I was 22 years old and I was playing in The Sound of a Gun to rave reviews. Elia Kazan was looking for a protagonist for his new film, the sequel of America, America (he never made that film), and he had to be Greek so he came to Athens. He heard about me and he came to the theater. He told me I was like a young Warren Beatty. He asked me how old I was. I said 22. He said, you are already too old for Hollywood. You should have left when you were 17. Go now before it’s far too late.
Then Ingmar Bergman called me a stradivarius. What did he mean?
I never worked with Bergman but I made a film with his daughter, Eva Bergman. She asked me to move to Sweden and be a part of their theater group. She would always consult her father so she had him check out my work. And he said I am like a stradivarius – in the right hands I can create magic.
That was after Elia Kazan encouraged me to go to America.
I was invited a few times to leave Greece for somewhere else.
Before Eva (Bergman) was Catherine Deneuve. We played in a movie together and we got along really well. She told me to come to Paris, she thought I would make a career as an actor in Paris.
I don’t know what stopped me from making the big step. It was scary. And I already felt an alien in Greece. I was scared of being an even bigger alien.
Why did I feel such an alien in Greece?
Maybe I didn’t know how to do things. I came from a family that did not belong, I tried to have an education but success came too early and from then on I was working at a breakneck pace.
I felt like I was part of something big when I was working with Dassin or Volonakis or Voutsinas. These men – more than being great artists they were great men. They loved me as an actor. I played for them. That is what makes you better – when someone, a great director is spiritually in love with you. That’s what makes you feel you are in the right place in the right time.
My life was determined by meetings. Meetings with great people. They took me on as an actor, they loved me absolutely. But apart from them I kept feeling that I wasn’t doing things the right away.
It felt like I was surrounded by traps. Front pages, parties, drugs, a life that would take me away from what I really wanted. Which was to be on stage and in front of the camera. People said you have to do this. And eventually I did for a while.
I was on every front page of a magazine for many years. I went and did TV interviews, I exposed myself and my private life, I did stupid stuff. I was labelled a sex symbol because of how I looked. In real life I was exactly the opposite. My image and who I was were two entirely different things. But if an image is created whatever you do feeds that image. And I paid the price. I was deemed ‘too commercial’ and I stopped being cast in the plays and films I cared about. So I started producing plays on my own. And I never left the stage. For 30 years I was on the stage almost every single day. From time to time I would do a TV series to be able to make a living and I would put the money back into my productions. Athens is a theater city. Or it used to be. We were playing to 1,000 seat theaters for six months every night of the week. Often we were sold out. I did Dangerous Liaisons, Thornton Wilder, I played Dorian Gray, I played in Epidaurus. I did it all.
Then I decided to come to the US.
I have an 18 year old son, and when he was 17 he wanted to come to New York to finish high school and then go to college. So I thought it’s now or never. I packed my things and came with him.
I know that’s against common logic.
Life is short.
You have to follow your dreams.
I wanted to be in the films I loved.
The American cinema of the 70s.
There’s a tradition of narrative cinema that is more character-centered than most European films. There’s great TV being produced here, also in that tradition. I want to be part of that.
There’s a kind of work where the director cherishes the actor more than anything else.
I believe I found something similar here in New York, the same feeling having that holy passion that Koun was talking about. That is what keeps me here in NY.And that is what brought me here in the first place. Some kind of instinct that I would find it here. Again.
When Karolos Koun was dying, he wanted me by his bedside. I was shocked. He had all these amazing actors and friends around him and he wanted me? I asked him why, and he told me I am talking to you because you can take what I have to give. So the last few hours of his life he would teach me.
I remember the things he said word for word
He told me practical things like that “an actor is like a pressure cooker that might explode any time but never does, it is that energy that needs to be transmitted”. That I don’t need acting lessons, that the only technique an actor needs is love and that it is where you give love that you take love. He told me you have to believe in miracles for miracles to happen. He said we don’t do theater for the theater. It’s the holy passion that is the important thing. That is what gets transferred. The text doesn’t matter, it is just the excuse. And that we – the actor, the writer, the director – that we are just the container through which we transfer the holy passion. The people come to the theater to receive that, to be cured. That is what it is. The text is the excuse.
That is why that gets lost with fame and money. It is the entitlement that kills the holy passion. You have to be empty so that you can transfer that energy. He told me I would be successful because I have the passion and that all I have to do is to be loyal to it. He said it will be a rough road but I should never ever give up. He said, Stratos, you are strangely sincere, strangely spontaneous, strangely direct. Don’t ever lose that.
Then he started teaching me how to say the last words in the play. He never did that, it was the first and last time. My character would hold his mother in his hands in the end and he would just say, mana mana mana. Which means, mother mother mother. So Koun would say mana, mana, mana and the way he said it, it was as if it would hold all that energy of the pressure cooker, like an aaaa that never ends. And that was so intense and as weak as he was, he would faint. So I called the doctors and they would come in and resuscitate him. And he would say again, mana mana mana. And he would faint again. That happened three or four times. And I suddenly realized he was teaching me something big. He was that container and he was transferring that energy. And his body would give up. It was like he wanted to give me his last breath, the last breath that was holding all that passion that he had to pass on.
Sometimes I think I am playing for Koun all my life. I think he is watching over me and I want to make him proud.
All I live for is to be an actor. That is not entirely true. I live to pass on the torch of that energy that Koun gave me. I want to be deserving of that amazing gift that was given to me that day – and that night of mana, mana, mana. And when I despair most, is when I doubt of being deserving.
I doubt a lot. That is my biggest nemesis.
In The Sound of a Gun my character keeps saying “I am leaving for America.” Did he ever leave for America?
Neither Anagnostaki (the playwright) nor Koun would give me that answer. They said it is the actor’s decision. And that having made that decision he would carry it with him throughout the play.
I decided that he leaves. I had it in my mind that he would leave. There was no other way.
So the first thing I said when I was on stage for the very first time was that I would be leaving for America.
Exclusive Interview with Katia Sotiriou for mytheatro.gr
The name Stratos Tzortzoglou is embedded in our collective consciousness as the synonym for ‘’Jeune premier’’, the actor who has been defined not only by some of the most iconic theater roles he hines he made, but the one that radiates talent, beauty and deep understanding of the world. I met him as portrayed on stage but also by the fame he gained so early in his career. However, focusing on his celebrity status would be unfair. Still, one cannot resist being drawn in by his charismatic personality. Not the one displayed on the numerous covers of magazines.
I met him at the GreekTheatre of Art (Theatro Technis) Karolos Koun, at the opening night of ‘’Roberto Zucco’’ directed by Angela Brouskou. We scheduled an interview for a few days later. Impressively straightforward, vigorous and direct as he was, it felt more like a conversation than a typical interview – a truthful account of an extremely interesting and fascinating life. Our conversation began with a personal “confession” of mine and continued at its own pace. Besides, when you come across a man who talks about life with such passion and zest, there is no room for codes and conventions.
K.S.: Whenever someone asks me what is the one play that has moved me the most I always say ‘’Death of a Salesman’’, directed by Jules Dassin.
S.T.: Actually, I was not supposed to do that play. Jules Dassin was looking for an actor of about 35 years old, looking broken, because the character of Biff is like that. It was Costas Kazakos who suggested that he should see me. At the time, ‘’Our Town’’ had just completed two years of successful run and was possibly going for a third year, but I got a bit tired, so I felt I could not continue. Meanwhile, I was offered the leading role in the play ‘’Stella with the Red Gloves’’ by Iakovos Kambanellis, but again I did not want to do it because it was trademarked by Giorgos Fountas, I just did not have the courage to say the famous line ‘’Go away, Stella! … I’m holding a knife’’. Then Katia Dandoulaki offered me to play in ‘’The Seagull’’. At the same time I too had something in mind. In the end nothing came of it and suddenly in late August, early September I found myself without a job, when all the theater companies had closed for the season. It was then when I read ‘’Death of a Salesman’’. Ι would ‘’kill’’ to play this role, for one and only reason: to talk to my father. When I got my start in theater, 30 years ago, In Loula Anagnostaki’s ‘’The Sound of the Gun’’, through the character of Mihalis, I was reliving my resistance, my anger, my love and hate towards my mother. Now, it was about admitting to my father our fragility, it was about accepting who we are. So I finally went to Dassin, but when he saw me he told me that I am too young and good-looking for this role. I then spoke with Kazakos who suggested we should first do a read-through, which was not at all what I hoped for, the last thing I wanted to do was to go through an audition. Back then I needed to feel loved by the directors I was working with. Every time I thought I was being rejected I froze up and then I did not want to work with them. Anyway, we did the first read-through, and my acting was horrible. Really horrible. I was loud. Dassin then asked me ‘’is that the way you’re going to do it? Can’t you talk normally?’’ I said ‘’No.’’ I was shouting every line. We reached the second part and got to the scene with the father. At that point I forgot everything, and played my heart out. I thought I was going to be kicked out, anyway, and that my father would never have the chance to see me, so I did it for myself. And, then, I looked at Dassin, tears were falling from his eyes. He told me it was the second time he ever cried in theater. When the play was staged, for me it wasn’t just a theatrical performance but a ‘’conversation’’ with my father, my blood. When that happens, you go beyond acting and theater becomes the vehicle for expression of the deepest thoughts and feelings, some of which, oftentimes, you do not realize are there or you may never discover, not even during performances. My father came to the theatre 190 times, as many times as we played it, to all the performances. However, he never actually watched it, he only listened to it from the lobby, because he was a heavy smoker. That’s the way we came closer. He was a working class man from Piraeus, my father, a sailor, the ‘’Querelle of Brest’’ type with tattoos – and we hardly ever said ‘’I love you’’ in our family. But through this play, I found a way to tell him ‘’I love you’’. If there is any worthwhile reason at all I became an actor, so far, I believe it is to connect with my mother through ‘’The Sound of the Gun’’, and with my father through ‘’Death of a Salesman’’.
K.S.: Have you felt this ‘’connection’’ with other plays?
S.T.: In every play I communicate with someone. In ‘’Our Town’’ I was ‘’talking’’ to my first crush, to whom I never confessed my love because I was too shy, and instead I played it cool. So, there was this feeling of unrequited love because I never got the chance to be with her. Every play ‘’opens’’ something inside me, even wounds from the past. In ‘’Roberto Zucco’’, one of the characters I play- Brother- has nothing to do with my life, but at the same time he has several traits I am familiar with. I remember, when I was a kid, my father used to bring home all sorts of people. He used to take me to Dafni- Attica’s Psychiatric Hospital- and told me to never forget those people who need a cigarette. He was an extremely generous man, he helped people who didn’t have anything to eat, he picked up hungry stray dogs, and one time he brought home a couple of drug addicts he had found on the streets. Our home was open to everyone and I grew up in this strange “University”. Through my parents I had the opportunity to interact with the whole society, the good and the bad. This gave me the possibility to acquire a wide consciousness, and not to judge others based on whether they are ‘’lower’’ or ‘’upper class’’, successful or not. I even met someone who had escaped Korydallos Prison, and during rehearsals I told Brouskou that I once knew a ‘’Zucco’’, who had climbed up the prison walls and threatened to jump off. There are certain aspects in ‘’Roberto Zucco’’ I am very familiar with. The Brother character is a combination of all these individuals, which I incorporated into the role, by making him as substantial and truthful as I could. You can do this in Bernard-Marie Koltès’s play because it’s a nonlinear narrative, a nonlinear performance. That’s the way people are, also.
K.S.: Tell us about this play.
S.T.: In the play, Zucco is just a boy who lost his way and though he’s a good kid, he first kills his mother and his father, and later on a police officer and a child… Eventually, he develops a taste for murder. It is an elegy on our weaknesses, on deviation. It doesn’t try to scare us, it tries to make us understand that we cannot judge others. It is a heartrending play, full of compassion that shines through all this brutal and senseless violence. All these characters who revolve around Zucco and lead a wretched existence are actually more corrupt than he is, and they push him towards becoming an angel of death. When Brouskou chose me to play five different characters, I drew upon some of my experiences as a child with people like these I used to know. The one character I am unfamiliar with, is the old man at the metro.
K.S.: I think the scene with this character is your peak moment in the play.
S.T.: I try to channel my father. He passed away in 2003… In fact, to be honest, when I address Zucco it’s like talking to my son Alcibiades, telling him that anyone can lose his way, anytime. Telling him to have consciousness and be considerate. Talking to my son, brings a dimension that is beyond acting, it has a different energy.
K.S.: In fact it is a scene through which Koltès reveals his own feelings.
S.T.: Indeed, I think here Koltès is talking to Zucco. It is a parable about life, about the things we take for granted, like going to the station every day. As the old man says, he spends more time in a metro station than in his own kitchen. And suddenly, nothing is the same.
K.S.: How did the meeting with Angela Brouskou occur?
S.T.: Parthenope Bouzouri saw me perform with the Bijoux de Kant theatre company- with whom I have worked twice- so she contacted director Yiannis Skourletis. Initially we were going to do Phaedra’s Love by Sarah Kane and I was going to play Theseus. In the end Brouskou offered me these roles in Roberto Zucco. In fact, at first I thought Ι was going to play Zucco, I didn’t realize how many years had passed! (laughs).
K.S.: We may say that ‘’Roberto Zucco’’ signals not only your stage comeback to the Art Theatre, but also your return to Greece.
S.T.: I wouldn’t say I have returned, I believe that we constantly return. Our life is a continual recurrence. You come back to see the same things again from a new perspective. We are living a, seemingly, linear life, which has a beginning, a middle and an end, but in reality life goes in circles, and we experience similar things. We set boundaries in our relationships with others, our parents, our friends, until we get our problems solved. I lived through difficult times, during the rebuilding of Piraeus, and our financial situation did not allow us to live in an apartment. We were always staying in small houses with ‘’courtyards of miracles’’, shared courtyards, outside toilet. I have experienced Greece the way my son, for instance, will never experience. I grew up constantly moving house – once we had moved 4 times in a month – and changing schools, and so every time I said ‘’hello’’, in my mind I was also saying ‘’goodbye’’. This situation made me very sociable, but it hurt me too, because I really needed to have a sense of continuity. Also, it made me see that people may be different but we are all one. We are all looking for love. Some may pursue it through violence and others with beauty. Some search for love by stealing, others are gentler.
K.S.: Your life story is remarkably interesting…
S.T.: Through all these experiences I became acquainted with that world, a world that looks like it fell out of a Jean Genet novel. I know its secrets, I know these people. So, I somehow became this guy who wanted to protect the weak and vulnerable, always carrying my father’s words. This is why I started doing things like going to the gym. In fact this is kind of how it all began with Karolos Koun. I used to go to this gym and lift weights, one day the trainer asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. So, I started striking dramatic poses and said I would become an actor. A guy who was there heard me, he came up to me and took me to the Amateur Theatre Company in Aigaleo, where some of today’s most important stage directors started out, like Yiannis Skourletis, Froso Litra, Yiannis Mavritsakis. Back then I was just this kid who didn’t even know who Shakespeare was. This Company molded me. One day I watched Koun’s interview with Dimitris Maronitis and decided to go to the Art Theatre. Nobody believed I was going to make it. I even started making all these crazy scenarios in case he would not accept me. I was going to tell him that maybe I could run errands for him, water the plants or bring coffees. If that wasn’t good enough, I would tell him I’ll just sit in a corner and watch the rehearsals, and if that didn’t change his mind either, well, in that case, I would threaten him! (Laughs) I mean, come on, he wouldn’t take in his class a madman?! I didn’t know if I had any talent, but I definitely had the passion, and I sure had a lot of issues which, through acting and ‘’returning’’, would get solved. Because each role is a return to an unsolved issue from the past. If you have lived it, you have no reason to do it. But there are unresolved issues regarding the future. Time is nonlinear, the past coexists with the future, so there are things in your past that remain unresolved and leave you with something to dream about for the future. There is a complexity and simplicity in life, at the same time, and if you look at it from the outside, it is clear that it is full of ambiguities and contradictions. So we live with these ambiguities our whole life. Personally, I am very familiar with these issues since my childhood, and my life has followed its course accordingly. Like, for example, I always wanted to go to America, since 1987 when I met Elia Kazan, the year I was shooting ‘’The Striker with Number 9’’ with Pantelis Voulgaris. He had chosen me to be in his film, which was never made. He told me to go to the Actor’s Studio. But I wanted to prepare myself psychologically first, make some money, and then go. It never happened. Throughout my life I was very attached to my family and my actions were driven by my emotions. For instance, I did my first TV series ‘’The Guards of Achaia’’ for my grandmother, betraying, in a way, my career, as another Alcibiades. That’s why I named my son Alcibiades. I’m like him. I betrayed myself many times, and my career with all these distinguished directors. That’s when I messed up my image, despite the fact that those TV series today are highly regarded. Those ‘’crimes’’, however, I always committed out of love, because I never really had an obsession with fame.
K.S.: So how did you end up in America?
S.T.: I always dreamt of going to America, and I wanted to ‘’return’’ to that dream. One day my son came to me and told me he wanted to go, I could not part from him, so we went together. So, there I was in this country, with no money, though I always said that I would only go if I had money. The feeling that we had to find money to live there was intense. But I did two plays, and the Greek community in Astoria helped us a lot. I didn’t go with an easy play though, but with Nikos Kazantzakis’ Ascesis. Our objective was not to make a box-office success. I wanted to do this play with my son, to share with him the Ascesis. In fact it was snowing back then, and my son and I were clearing the snow from the entrance. This made him realize that in America he is not ‘’Tzortzoglou’s son’’ anymore, people won’t stop us on the street and recognize us. And that if we don’t act fast in a country, which although embraces everyone, at the same time if you’re broke you’re through, we won’t be able to survive. One day at a gathering in the ambassador’s house, I met Kazan’s wife who had brought by chance (!) the decoupage of the film I was going to do. I was very fortunate because I had already gone to Los Angeles and took classes with Ivana Chubbuck, the acting coach for Brad Pitt. Eventually I joined the Actor’s Studio. I was blessed in my life because I had the chance to meet great people, and I’m not just referring to the brilliant directors whom I often mention, but also people I’ve met in my everyday life. Looking back, you realize that every person you’ve met played a part in making things the way they are. And now a circle has been completed, so that I can ‘’say’’ to Koun that even if I ‘’lost my way’’, I am still standing, and now I’m back on track. Because through this course I killed the purest part of myself, my old identity. Television turned me into a popular celebrity, I made money, and then I lost it on theatrical productions. I went through an Odyssey. At the same time I ‘’talked’’ with that old man in the station, I took his words into consideration and decided that the path towards the sun cannot be followed by killing others, but regardless of being stripped of everything, being able to move on and keep going.
K.S.: Celebrity is a big issue in your life…
S.T.: I think I became famous too early. Through a quirk of fate, in my first year at the Art Theater, Aliki Vouyiouklaki offered me the male lead in ‘’40 Carats’’ by Pierre Barillet. I turned it down. Then Jenny Karezi offered me to do ‘’Orestes’’ by Euripides and I turned it down also, because Yorgos Lazanis wanted me at an Art Theater production. However, the Art Theater’s Board Committee allowed me to do ‘’The Striker with Number 9’’. So, initially I was going to be in ‘’The Sound of the Gun’’ until Christmas, but its run was extended to January 1988. We started filming the football scenes with Pantelis Voulgaris on the 13th of January, so that if I got injured, it would not affect my work at the Theatre. We shot the scenes in the AEK stadium at the halftime of AEK – ETHNIKOS. The score was 0-0, and the fireworks for the match were not yet set off. So I score, and because I was standing near the AEK fans, the fireworks went off and as I climbed over the railing, I hit my knee which led to soft tissue contusion. The doctor recommended me to take a week off. At the theater Lazanis had to replace me for the remaining months with Kleon Grigoriadis. Of course I was upset because I was left with no job, but then Theo Angelopoulos offered me a part in ‘’Landscape in the Mist’’, which I would not have accepted, if I were still in ‘’The Sound of the Gun’’. That’s how, by a simple accident, I suddenly found myself with Almodovar and Angelopoulos in the 45th Venice International Film Festival, while my drama school classmates were finishing their first year. You see, there’s no logical explanation on how things are done, that’s why you have to follow your heart. The mind is only good for practical matters, in order to survive. But the heart… everything is love. When you’re living in a higher vibration, you connect with things which to others may seem supernatural, or strange.
K.S.: These days you’re also in the middle of rehearsals for Venus in Fur in Thessaloniki. Both plays are about extreme passions.
S.T.: Yes, indeed and there I also play multiple roles. There is Novachek, the writer/director of a new play based on Masoch’s classic novel, there is Kushemski, the 19th century idle rich aesthete, and then I become Dunayev in fur, showing Vanda how to play the lead character. It’s the year I play 10 different roles!
K.S.: How do you manage?
S.T.: It relaxes me a lot, actually. For instance, when I was doing ‘’The Idiot’’ by Dostoevsky, directed by Roula Pateraki, I was also starring in the rom-com TV series ‘’Idiaitera gia Klamata’’ with Sophia Aliberti. Now, we’re talking about two completely opposite projects, but you see, these type of things relax me. I have two selves that coexist simultaneously. I am a ‘’healthy schizoid’’, as Minos Volanakis used to say about me. In fact, I’ve also scheduled for this year, beginning from the 2nd of January, my masterclasses in the Volanaki Library. It is yet another comeback. So, yes, that’s really what he said about me that I am a schizoid personality but in a healthy form. And so it is. You know, it’s been 15 years since Maria and I have divorced, but we’ll always be the parents of Alcibiades, we’re still doing things together, and we love each other as we always did. At the same time, I have the reputation of being a cheater. Back then, for the tabloids, I was the definition of the cheating man, and I have never been unfaithful. I guess it’s something in my personality that gives the wrong impression. I was ‘’very’’ married, but very much free, also, at the same time. I have done so many amazing things with outstanding directors, but then I did covers in popular magazines that turned me into a sex symbol. On the one hand I made good money, and on the other hand I didn’t have anything to eat when I went to America, but you would never catch me whining about life’s hardships. So, that is characteristic of me, to be able to work with Angelopoulos, Skourletis, Brouskou, and with the same ease do popular TV series, that don’t pay off artistically wise, but, nonetheless, require your experienced input to something… simpler. I would not use the word ‘’cheaper’’, because nothing is cheap, except the way we handle things. I don’t have difficulty adjusting to different situations. Maybe my childhood experiences have contributed to that, I easily adapt. I may talk about a certain scene with Brouskou for five days long, and prepare another play in just five hours. I am really malleable. Ingmar Bergman said of me that I am like a Stradivarius violin. I’m not always great, though, but I return to ask questions, to connect with my innermost feelings.
K.S.: Are there any roles you would like to play?
S.T.: Certainly there are roles that Ι’m right for, aesthetically, but every time I play a part, it ‘’speaks’’ to me, for some reason. In the end, I always do things because they ‘’speak’’ to me. And this year, with Roberto Zucco, I didn’t remember the text quiet well, and I told Brouskou I had to read it thoroughly, because if I don’t feel it in my heart I can’t do it just because it’s a good work. On the other hand, it might happen you get involved in a project you’re not crazy about, but you’re really into the team. So again, it’s a matter of connecting with something. When I met Brouskou, I fell in love with her through our conversation. Whatever she would suggest me I would accept, because I had made up my mind that I wanted to work with her after our first meeting. Therefore, there is something ‘’unconcluded’’ with Angela Brouskou, she is someone I can talk with. Even if she asked me to recite the phone book, or not speak at all, I would still do it (Laughs). And the Art Theatre of Karolos Koun. Yes, I would return, but what’s important is how I would return. Now, I am in the dressing room next to the one I occupied 30 years ago, and I’m sharing it with Kleon Grigoriadis who’s now in another play, and who had replaced me back then in ‘’The Sound of the Gun’’. Isn’t that something…?
K.S.: Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus is another of your projects.
S.T.: It’s a play I already did in Thermopylae, but in the new production we’ll have another director on board and another translation. It was a good effort. Now, together with Theodoros Espiritu, our new director, we will revisit the project from a new perspective.
K.S.: In any case, these projects have definitely something in common. Light and darkness, love and death, are themes that we find in everything you do this year, like there is an invisible thread that connects them.
S.T.: Exactly. And Prometheus is a revolutionary of his time. Ηe is a Titan who brings the light, but knows he will be punished for it. He is one of the bad guys of his time. Different roles, however with strong similarities. But these ambiguities are part of who I am. Fortunately, this doesn’t bother people, because I am cooperative, and during rehearsals I’m very open. Maybe because I never exactly saw acting as work. If, at some point, I see it as work, maybe I’ll give it up. To me it’s a ‘’game’’.
K.S.: Were you ever required to do something in order to shake off your ‘’jeune premier’’- ‘’sex symbol’’ image?
S.T.: I’ve done it in numerous ways. With Bijoux de Kant, for example, I played roles opposite of myself. In theater you can do that, but in television it’s more difficult, because no one will cast you in roles very different from yourself. In theater I’ve been involved with avant-garde projects, which most people are not aware of. When I was young it was more difficult, because, inevitably, you are your age. But now I’m not career-oriented any more. Now I’m just having fun. It wasn’t a career move to be in Roberto Zucco with so many different roles, but it was something that I wanted to do. And perhaps now directors will show up and offer me roles based on what they saw me doing, without them thinking that I am Tzortzoglou the TV star, who once had another type of career. I am given the chance to ‘’pass my exams’’ again, and those who’ll come to see my performance will understand that I have many faces. Now I’m following a different path and it’s something I need to do. It doesn’t mean I regret my past, though, I even embrace my mistakes. When God gives you the key to the rainbow, it is a shame not to experience all the colors. Even if the color is white, he who lives in the light should not avoid experiencing the darkness too. I regret nothing, life has taught me valuable lessons. People might think I betrayed my past, I’ve been harshly judged for the TV shows I did, even if, in reality, I did much less TV than most actors. I had a very inconsistent career, but with great consistency, nonetheless!
K.S.: As part of your enormous creativity you have also produced a collection of jewelry. How did that happen?
S.T.: I was in America with Alcibiades, and I missed my mother and Greece so much. Also, I really like rings, if you look at older pictures of me, you’ll see me wearing a ring. So I started designing rings. One day I was performing at the Delphi Theater the Orphic hymns in ancient Greek, and this strange connection began to grow with the audience, many of whom didn’t necessarily understand the text. So I combined these hymns with 12 + 1 love stories of the gods. Basically they’re prayers. I designed these jewels to make these prayers with my inner self. I don’t know if the line will continue, but I love the silver ones. I’m glad I did it, it was something important to me, as well as this book I’m presenting nowadays: ‘’The Law of Success’’, which is an inspiring testimony to personal growth and transformation by a great man of the past century, Napoleon Hill. Today his work is a point of reference for people who believe in the science of positive thinking. He studied the philosophy of Plato and Pythagoras, he met with individuals who were influential in their field of expertise, and after multiple failures in his life he created 15 + 1 laws that open the door to success in all areas of life. The + 1 law is the Golden Rule, that unites everything. Reading the book, I identified with him instantly, because I certainly had my own share of failures. I discovered this book in America, accidentally, while I was going through a dark tunnel- a really rough time- without much theater, staying home, not doing anything…
K.S.: That was a hard landing considering your past in Greece…
S.T.: You can’t even imagine… another reality altogether.
K.S.: Did it change you?
S.T.: I think it did. Because when you’re running at breakneck speed, you miss out on things along the way, but ‘’slowing down’’ is difficult for me. I’m intense, I do things with passion. If you tell me to slow down, to meditate, or do nothing, I just can’t do it. I used to get up, study English, wait for Alcibiades to have lunch, read and go to the gym together. In order to take courage I was watching motivational videos on YouTube, that’s how I came across this book. Then I began to envision myself talking about it in Greece, in the current economic situation, now that we need more than ever to step up and become better in all areas. It’s like having a house and only cleaning one room. In the end it’s going to get filthy too. And then, by a stroke of luck, in one of my trips to Thessaloniki, I went for a walk in the book festival, and met the publisher. So we talked, we analyzed the book, and then we decided to form a team that would travel from town to town and present it. I really love doing it. Talking about these lessons allow me to discover them all over again and fully absorb them.
K.S.: What are your hopes for the future?
S.T.: I hope for my son, my mother and all the people I love to be well. I hope for life, I care about good health. I hope to continue playing roles, have money to survive. But health is the most important thing. And for the world, I hope that Trump does not push the button. It has happened before in history, with Hitler, and in Rome with mad emperors like Commodus and Caligula, shortly before the fall of the empire… And now that. It’s just that Hollywood had never imagined the Joker as the President of the United States. The problem is we don’t have a Batman. We’ll have to find him. You never know. I can’t imagine what will happen. We’ll just have to wait and see…
K.S.: Thank you very much!
S.T.: Thank you!