Born on June 11, 1921 in Limassol, Cyprus, he studied Law in London and was called to the Bar (Barrister-at-law) in 1943. while working for the BBC’s Greek service, first as a news announcer and then as a producer of cultural programs, he also studied acting at the Central School of Dramatic Art in London and directing at the Old Vic School.
Not long after his debut as an actor in 1947, he decided to concentrate instead on directing. In 1952 he left London to settle in Athens and one year later the success of his first film (Windfall in Athens) marked the beginning of an international career in directing. Stella, A Girl in Black, A Matter of Dignity, Zorba the Greek and the trilogy of Electra, The Trojan Women and Iphigenia– his films screened at the most prestigious international film festivals, receiving awards and distinctions. Michael Cacoyannis worked with some of the best and most distinguished actors of his time, in Greece, Europe and Hollywood.
He distinguished himself not only as an international filmmaker, but also as a stage and opera director, with critically acclaimed productions in Greece, the US, France and other European countries. He published several screenplays, he translated plays by Shakespeare into Greek and Euripides into English, and he wrote the lyrics of some famous Greek songs.
It was Michael Cacoyannis’ initiative that led to the dramatic new illumination of the Acropolis. He enlisted the services of the famous French engineer Pierre Bideau, and after generous donations by the Friends of Athens, which he founded, the project finally received backing from the Ministry of Culture and the City of Athens.
In 2004, Michael Cacoyannis established a charitable foundation in his name, whose aim is to support, preserve and promote the arts of Theater and Cinema.
For his work and overall contributions to the Arts, Michael Cacoyannis was awarded the Order of the Golden Phoenix (Greece), the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (France), the Grand Cross/Order of Makarios 3rd (Cyprus) and the Special Grand Prix of the Americas (Montreal). He was honored by the Greek Academy with its highest award for national services and with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Thessaloniki, Jerusalem and Cairo Film Festivals, as well as by the American Hellenic Institute in washington. He was declared an Honorary Citizen of Limassol, Montpellier and Dallas, and received Honorary Doctorates from Columbia College (Chicago), Athens University, Cyprus University, and the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.
Michael Cacoyannis died on 25 July 2011 in Athens.