NEW YORK – Alex & Eve, the romantic comedy set in Sydney, Australia about Alex, a Greek Orthodox Christian teacher falling in love with Eve, a Lebanese Muslim lawyer, was written by Alex Lykos who took time out, as did the stars Andrea Demetriades and Richard Brancatisano, to talk with The National Herald about the film which began as a play inspired by true life experiences.
While in his 30s, Lykos, whose family is from Samos, dated a Muslim woman who happened to get a job in London and moved away. He wondered what if the relationship had progressed and how his Greek family might have reacted if he had married a Muslim.
The resulting play became a hit among the immigrant community in Australia and a film version expanded the “size and scope” of the play which had been running for ten years by the time the film was made, Lykos told TNH.
The rise of ISIS and the negative stereotypes of Muslims in most depictions made the film even timelier since it showed a traditional family of immigrants who happen to be Muslim living in Australia and dealing with the issues that arise from interacting with other ethnicities in a multicultural society.
Lykos noted that in 2016 there was some trepidation about a film dealing with Islam and Muslims, especially in New York where it was screened at the New York City Greek Film Festival (NYCGFF). The trepidation surprised him since New York is such a multicultural place. Once the film was shown, however, the response was overwhelmingly positive. “[The response was] extraordinary,” Lykos told TNH for a small film, by Hollywood standards, to find such strong support from the Greek community and on the festival circuit, including at the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and at the NYCGFF.
Lykos, who also appears in the film as Stavros, noted that there were not very many depictions of men in their 30s struggling with relationships or having trouble finding themselves. He said there is this idea that a man can just go down to the bar and pick up a woman, but meeting new people is not always so easy for shy men like the character of Alex, who is a sort of “male version of Bridget Jones,” Lykos told TNH. He had played the role onstage. Richard Brancatisano, an Australian actor of Italian descent played Alex in the film. Lykos’ father also makes an appearance in the film delivering a priceless line about how he arrived in Australia.
Lykos was a professional tennis player before he went into the arts. His theatre company in Australia has been in operation for ten years and there is an “organic Greek flavor to all the pieces” he said of his plays, including the two sequels to Alex & Eve which continue to tour Australia. He hopes to bring the plays to New York, he told TNH. For now, he said, we’ll see how the current New York run of the film goes. Lykos noted how much he learned from the experience and working with Greek-Australian director Peter Andrikidis and the amazing cast.
The role of Lebanese-Australian Eve was played by the wonderful Greek-Australian actress Andrea Demetriades who also spoke with TNH about the film. “Children of immigrants is what we are,” she said. “In Australia, I think we’re still coming to terms with it that we are a multicultural nation.”
“Making a film like this was really exciting because there are a lot of children of immigrants now and they see themselves as Australian. I identify as an Australian, I’m very proud of my Greek heritage, and did a lot of Greek dancing when I was young. My father was the president of the Cypriot community in Perth and he’s a translator as well… Australia really is a land of immigrants,” Demetriades said.
Her father, Costas Demetriades, immigrated to Australia in 1969 from Cyprus, also hosts a show on SBS in Perth.
“None of us, except for the indigenous Australians can claim Australia, really,” she added.
With roots in Cyprus on her father’s side and Andros and Kastelorizo on her mother’s side (her mother was born in Perth), Demetriades noted the fact that playing the Lebanese Muslim character in the film was not so removed from her own experience, “having parents who are immersed in tradition, my mother is Greek Orthodox, so is my father, I was brought up Greek Orthodox, so religion is a very big part of our family… and my parents in the film were very orthodox Muslim and I love showing that peaceful, beautiful side of the Muslim faith. The only people that ruin that are the terrorists.”
Early on in her career, she told TNH, she turned down the role of the terrorist or terrorist’s wife because “as an actor that’s not what I want to do, I want to represent the truth and the beautiful side of faith and going against the stereotype.”
The most difficult challenge of the role was pretending that she did not know how to dance the Kalamatiano for 5 hours while shooting the scene in the film. Demetriades told TNH, “I’m the Queen of Kalamatiano.” She also told TNH that it was nice to show off Sydney as well and mentioned that they climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge twice filming on one of the windiest days and though strapped in, it was a bit scary. The views, however, were impressive. “It’s great that you get to see those beautiful shots of the Opera House and the Bridge,” Demetriades said.
Richard Brancatisano, who plays Alex, also spoke with TNH. He said of working with Lykos, “[It] was always a really collaborative process. I cherished the fact that he knew the story and the character inside and out and I didn’t shy away from asking for his opinion or insight. But Alex also respected my own process as well. I always felt supported and able to breathe my own life into the character of Alex.”
When asked if he ever experienced any culture clash in his own life, Brancatisano said, “I’ve seen culture clash in all aspects of my life as I’m sure nearly every human has, from the school yard to family members and all throughout Australia in general. I’ve witnessed traditions in my own family continue to live and sometimes die, and more importantly experienced beliefs and traditions held by family and friends shift and merge into something that better serves us as human beings. If you take one thing from this movie let it be that tradition and beliefs shouldn’t hold value just because they have existed for a long time or because they are followed by many people. We should question our traditions and beliefs every day.”
Brancatisano, who is also a talented musician and singer, told TNH “I’m currently working on my first album. I’ve been recording over the last couple of months and looking forward to releasing something that’s very honest and revealing.”
Alex & Eve opens in New York on October 13 at the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street in the East Village.