ATHENS – The popular actor and singer Nikos Xanthopoulos passed away on January 22 at the age of 89 after serious health problems for which he had been hospitalized recently. Mainly popular in the 1960s, when he starred in many drama films, he became known as a “child of the people” from his roles as the poor and downtrodden working class youth who lives in misery but is eventually redeemed.
Nikos Xanthopoulos was born on March 4, 1934 in Nea Ionia, in the refugee neighborhood of Athens. A child of Pontian refugees, he grew up poor with his mother, who basically took care of him alone, as his father was absent for long periods of time. His father worked occasionally as a shoemaker and fisherman, while during the Occupation he was imprisoned for his resistance activities. During his teenage years, Xanthopoulos was an athlete in AEK. Growing up, he decided to work in the theater, although he was initially fascinated by the idea of becoming a philologist. His mentor was Manos Katrakis.
He studied at the National Theater School and made his first professional appearance in the theater in 1957 with ‘Thiaso Katerinas’ in the comedy ‘Virginia’. By the mid-60s, he had played various roles, including Orestes in Sophocles’ Electra, directed by Dimitris Rontiris, while he also collaborated with Katrakis’ troupe in Mikis Theodorakis’ ‘Dead Brother’s Song’. He also briefly performed in musical theater. He participated in 24 theater productions and played all kinds of roles. In 1970, he founded his own troupe and toured Greece.
From the mid-60s, cinema won him over. His first film appearance was in 1958 in the Filippos Fylaktos comedy ‘The Collector’ alongside Vasilis Avlonitis and Nikos Rizos.
He was established as a film star by the director-producer Apostolos Tegopoulos of the KLAK Film production company, with whom he had an exclusive collaboration from 1964 to 1971, in musical drama films. He participated in the films of the newly established KLAK Film for the first time in 1963 with ‘Pligomenes Kardies’ (‘Broken Hearts’) in the role of the evil brother-in-law. The beginning of his casting as a “child of the people” took place a year later in the film ‘Agapisa kai Ponesa’ (‘I Loved and Got Hurt’). In these films, Xanthopoulos used to sing, while composers such as Apostolos Kaldaras wrote songs for him. His discography includes nine major albums and 55 singles. He appeared as a singer in large nightclubs and toured abroad in the centers of the Greek diaspora. His last film appearance was in 1995 in the film by Giorgos Zervoulakos ‘Me ton Orfea ton Avguosto’ (‘With Orpheus in August’).
Xanthopoulos published his autobiography ‘Osa Thimame kai Osa Agapisa’ (‘What I Remember and What I Loved’) in 2005. He was married twice and had four children and five grandchildren.
He first appeared on television in 1973 in the series ‘Agrimia’. Eight years after ‘Agrimia’, in 1981, he played in the Errikos Thalassinos series ‘To Imerologio Enos Thyrorou’ (‘The Diary of a Doorman’) as the captain who wants to go sailing but can’t find somewhere to leave his son. The role prompted him to start smoking again.
In 1994, he played in the television drama series ‘Stin Kopi tou Xirafiou’ (‘On the Razor’s Edge’).
In 1989, he collaborated with Tegopoulos and Panos Kontelis in ‘Minore Mias Kardias’, which was released on video and then played on ERT in 16 episodes. Then came ‘I Agapi pou then Gnorise Synora’ (‘Love without Borders’), which was filmed in Athens, Constantinople, and Paris. It was released on video and then later aired in 8 episodes on Mega.
Two more video productions followed, ‘I Kardia tou Patera’ (‘Father’s Heart’) and ‘Erotas sto Perithorio’ (‘Love on the Sidelines’) which also played on TV on the ANT1 channel in 1992.
Xanthopoulos became a singer out of necessity in his films and was guided by composer Apostolos Kaldaras and lyricist Eftychia Papagiannopoulou.
After 1971, Xanthopoulos took a break from films and switched to a new career in popular music, releasing 9 albums and 55 singles in a discography which includes about 300 songs. His songs were composed by well-known Greek composers including Akis Panou, Christos Nikolopoulos, Stavros Xarchakos and others.
During his hiatus from cinema and television, he had the opportunity to visit and tour in the U.S., Australia, and almost all of Europe, always embraced by adoring fans of the Greek diaspora.
He will be missed.