It's cool to be Greek, says Oscar winning Hollywood Director


Oscar winning director Alexander Payne said it's cool to be Greek, officially, as he reflected on obtaining his Greek citizenship in an interview with Margarita Pournara from Kathimerini newspaper.

The two time Oscar winning screenwriter – director  who was sworn in as a Greek citizen at the Consulate General of Greece in Boston in February this year admitted that there was a lot of red tape involved "for the descendants of Greeks to become Greek themselves."


“Both my grandfathers were born in Greece, but to prove this I had to track down their municipal registration forms, their baptism and wedding certificates, and all sorts of other papers. My father’s father was from a small village near Aigio, Krokova, and we couldn’t find anything there, probably because all the registries were destroyed by the Germans during the occupation. So we went to Livadia, where my mother’s father came from, and made some headway there. Anyway, all’s well that ends well,” he adds, thanking Greece’s Consul General in Boston Stratos Efthymiou for helping make it happen.

“I wanted to get citizenship for a long time. I thought to myself: It would be cool to be Greek, officially, with papers. But there’s another reason now, a professional one. I want to make more films in Europe; I see my future less in America and more in different countries on the Continent, including Greece, of course. So a Greek passport is not just a matter of pride, it’s also a tool for work. I love the country of my forefathers, though in a different way to you, of course. I’ve been traveling a lot more often recently and spending more time there recently,” says Payne, whose daughter lives in Greece.

“I felt differently somehow. I’d walk down the street and think: ‘F**k you, man, I’m Greek!’

Payne admits that the first time he returned to Greece after he was naturalised he felt proud and was filled with a special feeling.

“I felt differently somehow. I’d walk down the street and think: ‘F**k you, man, I’m Greek!’ All of us born in the diaspora and raised in the US, Canada, Germany or Australia create a hybrid identity. The important thing to me, though, is that by growing up as a Greek American I always keep my eyes open, I like to observe everything, and this has definitely influenced me as a director,” adds Payne.



Born Constantine Alexander Payne, the Greek American filmmaker is best known for the films, Citizen Ruth (1996), Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011), Nebraska (2013) and Downsizing (2017). They are noted for their dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society. Payne is a two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and a three-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director.

Payne was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Peggy and George Payne, restaurant owners. He is the youngest of three sons and grew up in the Dundee neighbourhood.

His father is of Greek and German descent, and his mother is of Greek ancestry. Payne’s paternal grandfather, Nicholas “Nick” Payne, anglicized the last name from “Papadopoulos”. His family comes from three areas in Greece: the island of Syros, Livadia, and Aegio.

Payne’s family was part of the fabric of Omaha, which he refers to as part of his upbringing. His grandfather was a founder of The Virginia Cafe, with Payne’s father taking over the restaurant. Payne went there regularly as a child. The restaurant was destroyed in a fire in 1969; the W. Dale Clark Library was later built on the site.

Payne’s paternal grandmother, Clara Payne (née Hoffman), was from a German Nebraska family from Lincoln, Nebraska.

In Omaha, Payne attended Brownell-Talbot School, Dundee Elementary School, and Lewis and Clark Junior High. He graduated from Creighton Prep for high school in 1979. At Prep, Payne wrote a humor column for his high school newspaper and was the editor of the high school yearbook.

Payne then attended Stanford University, where he majored in Spanish and History. As a part of his Spanish degree, he studied at Spain’s University of Salamanca. He later lived a few months in Medellin, Colombia, where he published an article about social changes between 1900 and 1930. Payne received his MFA in 1990 from the UCLA Film School.

In 2012, he was named as a member of the Jury for the Main Competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. His 2013 film Nebraska was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. With his Academy Award nomination for Nebraska in 2014, Payne has been nominated seven times, winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay twice.

In 2014, The Location Managers Guild of America honoured Alexander with their inaugural Eva Monley Award for his masterful use of location as another character.