Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Greek Meets Greek -- Presto, a Movie

Cleveland Press February 24, 1964

It was August, 1961. Elia Kazan, producer and director was in Athens auditioning actors for the movie version of his own novel, "America America."

The Greek-born director auditioned some 200 young actors in their native tongue. One of them was Stathis Giallelis (pronounced Stahthis Yah-lah-lease), a student in the Christos Vachliotis Drama School, who read a passage from a Thomas Wolfe novel.

"In September Mr. Kazan wrote me a letter saying that there might be a part for me" he recalled during a visit to Cleveland last week.

BUT GIALLELIS would have to get to the United States and would have to learn English. Kazan returned to Greece in January, told the youth that production would start in a few months and that he doubted the young actor could learn enough English to have a part.

In March Giallelis borrowed money and made his way to London. From there he took a plane to New York, arrived with 30 cents in his pocket.

"I remember the date -- it was Monday, Mar. 29. I got a job washing dishes in a restaurant from 7 to 11:30 at night. I found Mr. Kazan and he was surprised. He gave me a scene to prepare in four days. It was from 'Golden Boy.'

"AFTER I READ for him he gave me the script for 'America America' and told me to quit my job washing dishes."

In the film, Giallelis portrays a Greek boy with an overpowering determination to reach America.

Giallelis is 23, under contract to Kazan, whom he seems to worship. He explained that in Greece acting on the stage is a profession for which the performer must be licensed. This follows three years of study and an audition. No such qualification exists for movies.

"THERE IS ONE government theater in Athens and 22 others -- commercial theaters but set up as group and repertory theaters."

Giallelis will not have to complete his studies when he returns to Greece. Having worked and studied with Kazan will qualify him.

ENTERTAINMENT NOTES: Embassy Pictures has purchased screen rights to the recently published "The Minister and the Choir Singer" by William F. Kunstler, a book based on the famous Hall-Mills murder case of 1922.

Warner Bros., meanwhile, is buying Norman Mailer's "An American Dream," which will be published in the fall. The story is now being serialized in Esquire.