Alex Lykos captured the hearts and minds of Australian audiences with his play in which he wrote and starred in, Alex & Eve. As writer and lead actor he performed with his cast to sold out shows night after night, leading to two sequels (Alex & Eve The Wedding and Alex & Eve The Baby). The ten-year success of the stage shows then led to the hit film Alex & Eve which was released in 2015 to stellar reviews.
The story of a Greek Orthodox teacher who falls in love with a Lebanese Muslim lawyer explored the themes of forbidden love, cultural clashes, and acceptance, in a comedic style that has become Lykos’s trademark. Audiences were hooked. It’s almost baffling to consider the man who managed to simultaneously entertain people as well as effectively hold up a mirror and allow themselves to see their own family or experiences, fell into writing almost by accident and yet that’s exactly what took place.
Finding himself 30 years old and unsure of what to do with his future, Lykos began recording his thoughts and reflections, and to his own surprise, enjoyed the process. The rest is history.
Now expecting a new movie, Me & My Left Brain, due for release in March 2019, GCT chatted to Lykos about his experiences with the Alex & Eve plays and film, how the themes have evolved, what inspires him, and his anticipation to bring audiences his new comedy.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Paddington and raised in Marrickville, Sydney. I lived in the United States for about 9 years. When I returned, I made my base in Marrickville again.
What part of Greece are your parents from?
Both parents are from the island of Samos.
When was the first time you went to Greece and what impression did it make in you?
The first time I went I was 14 years old. I was quite young and we spent most of our time on the island of Samos. I can remember the stunning beaches but of course I was taken by the country’s extraordinary history even at such a young age. My father is from Pythagorio — home of Pythagoras….and I studied Maths teaching…Mmmm.
Were you interested in acting and film-making from a young age? Tell us about turning it into a career?
No, I had no interest in the arts. Growing up in Marrickville, it was a very different suburb to what it is today. An interest in the arts wasn’t really something anybody considered. I used to play tennis when I was young. At 30 years old, I had no real direction in my life so I just started writing some journal entries and found I enjoyed writing them. It just snowballed from there.
What prompted you to write the play Alex & Eve?
In about 2003 I had noted all the films and books exploring the struggles of women in their thirties dealing with love, in particular, I enjoyed Bridget Jones Diaries. But I noticed there weren’t any stories exploring men’s struggles with love, insecurities and identity. So I had in the back of my mind an idea to write a male version of Bridget Jones Diaries. And then in 2004, I met someone who was Lebanese Muslim and wondered what would happen if a romantic relationship evolved. How would my parents react etc, and I then fused the two ideas and wrote Alex & Eve.
What kind of feedback did Alex & Eve receive, and how did it meet with your expectations of how audiences would respond?
The stage shows had two sequels (Alex & Eve The Wedding, Alex & Eve The Baby) and the omnibus (Alex & Eve The Complete Story) and they ran across the country for 10 years. Its journey was something that I will never ever forget. I was there on stage for every show, (I played Alex in the stage shows) and to see the joy the audience experienced night in, night out was something quite special and as I mentioned, I will never forget those memories. A lot of the cast was the same throughout the 10 years and we all grew up together, getting married, watched kids grow up than be in the shows, we became family. Our last ever performance at Parramatta Riverside Theatre, we all knew it was the last ever performance of the show, everyone was very emotional and it was actually one of our best performances ever.
The movie was a bigger operation, a lot more people involved, it was a difficult experience for me personally, but the story was ingrained in the community and people enjoyed the film.
What has been your biggest highlight so far?
That’s a tough one to answer but I would say performing Alex & Eve at the iconic Enmore Theatre in front of 1600 people. I had never felt anything like it. It was like a massive tidal wave of energy hitting us from the moment we walked on stage.
Also, the film I just completed Me & My Left Brain is something I am very proud of. With Alex & Eve being such a difficult experience, this one was a thoroughly rewarding filmmaking experience. I had never directed for the screen nor play a lead role in a film, so to make a film, one that I had envisioned from the start, is something I am proud of and cant wait for the audience to watch it.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The Alex & Eve film posed lots of challenges and was a massive learning experience for me from a business perspective. I am not a business person by nature and wish I was so I could be more aware of what was happening behind the scenes. In any case, the expensive lessons learned have been put to use in the current movie.
What inspires you?
I love telling stories. The joy I get from seeing audiences engaged by a story is something I can’t describe. I just love the relationship between the story be it on stage or on screen, and the stranger’s engagement and reaction it.
Who has influenced you the most throughout the years?
I have studied all the great writers and they have all influenced me to a degree. Speaking about film specifically, I am influenced by Woody Allen’s work. He doesnt like to get bogged down with shooting lots and lots of coverage. He likes to shoot long takes with limited set-ups, it is very theatrical and I feel the same way, I dont like to shoot too much “coverage”. I get bored of doing the same scene from 10 diferent angles.
What is one piece of advice you received that has stayed with you?
Not to be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and experiment as a writer. Hopefully, I have adhered to that advice: we have staged screwball-comedies, romantic-comedies, dramas, a stage musical, and an offbeat comedy.
Tell us about your new film, due for release in March, Me & My Left Brain? Did you draw on your own experiences?
With Alex & Eve film being a dificult experience and spending 5 years of meaningless meetings trying to get it up, I thought – there has got to be a better way. So I wrote Me & My Left Brain specifically for a lower budget so that it could be made quicker.
I am very proud of this film and what we have been able to achieve. It’s a romantic-comedy not playing on cultural stereotypes and explores the role of the inner voice we all have in our heads that criticises us at every step.
Who would you love to work with?
I like working with good actors who come to set on time, know their lines and deliver good performances — basically, a low-maintenance professional actor.
How do you wind down?
Golf is my outlet. On my writing days, I like to write from 9 to 12, break for lunch, then go from 1.30 – 4pm then address emails, then go and hit some golf balls in the afternoon to decompress. It’s amazing how many good ideas come to me at that time I am “switched off.”
What’s coming up in 2019, aside from the release of Me & My Left Brain?
Me & My Left Brain will be released in late March 2019.
I have just finished the first draft of my next screwball comedy, Accidental Crooks, which is scheduled to begin shooting in September 2019. Better Man is scheduled to begin shooting in September 2020. Better Man is a drama and I would like to direct one more film before I take on a drama.