Note that while earlier reports in the media, such as those in the Daily Telegraph, New York Times and Irish Times, mischaracterize the protests as "hate mail", do nothing to clear up the historical record, and paint an unfavorable portrait of the Hellenic community's legitimate concerns about such a film being based exclusively on Lord Kinross' hagiography of Ataturk -- as well as its being based upon a platform of holocaust denial -- Mr. Banderas' decision nevertheless constitutes a major success for historical truth and responsibility in our nation's media. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that, after a period of silence, Mr. Banderas has finally publicly taken an ethical and moral stand regarding his rejection of the role.
We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those individuals of conscience who cared enough to protest what would in effect have been a propaganda film for a mass US audience encompassing genocide denial and false historical revisionism filtered through Turkish Government censorship. Of course the film will reportedly still be made and we therefore must continue to be vigilant; please periodically visit this web page as we will have further details about the film and information as to how you can participate in continuing the protest.
What is extremely disturbing is what appears to be the producer Tarquin Olivier's denial of many of the horrific realities surrounding the period and his piecemeal adoption of the Turkish Government's official positions of denial regarding Ataturk and his responsibility in the massacres and ethnic cleansing of millions of Asia Minor's Armenians and Greeks. Olivier's intent of disseminating false historical revisionism through this film is also evident in his intent to portray Ataturk as having "set up a republican democracy" despite the fact that Ataturk, a secular reformist, was nevertheless a ruthless dictator who left a legacy of militaristic authoritarianism and political, racial and religious repression that continues in Turkey today.
Another example: Olivier continues to deny the well-known fact that Ataturk was a child molester even though Lord Kinros' own biography of Ataturk, upon which the script is based, discusses that fact: "Women, for Mustafa [Ataturk], were a means of satisfying masculine appetites, little more; nor, in his zest for experience, would he be inhibited from passing adventures with young boys, if the opportunity offered and the mood, in this bisexual fin de siecle Ottoman age, came upon him." p. 21 "Ataturk" (William Morrow & Company, 1965). Despite this, Olivier intends to portray Mustafa Kemal in "a compelling love story".
Moreover, Olivier's statement that Ataturk was "1,200 miles away fighting in Gallipoli" when the massacres of Armenians were taking place, evinces a complete unfamiliarity with the central fact that the Armenian Genocide by the Young Turk regime in which Ataturk was a high-level and influential officer was effected after the Allies were defeated at Gallipoli by Turkish forces. In addition, Olivier seems to be completely denying the massacres of the tens of thousands of Greek and Armenian civilians in the Smyrna district by Ataturk and his troops -- effected as US, French and British warships watched from the harbor -- and his ethnic cleansing of millions more during that same period.
Please drop a letter or fax of congratulations and support to:
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P. D. Spyropoulos, Esq.
Please find below articles concerning Mr. Banderas' withdrawal. For fair use and educational purposes only:
By Army Archerd, Daily Variety Senior Columnist
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Of course the question now is, ``Will there be a sequel to 'The Mask of Zorro'?''
Antonio Banderas, movie-biz-wise after 51 films, modestly told me, ``We have to see if it has legs -- if we can reach 100 (million $). I'm very cautious. But it should have a strong international market.''
Meanwhile, he's enjoying the No. 1 standing.
``My little sword won over all those fancy guns'' in ``Lethal Weapon 4'' and ``Armageddon.''
Banderas notes that none of the films he's made have ever given him the opportunity ``to build a character that I know,'' so a sequel would be a pleasant first (or second, or third) for him!
He only insists on two things: that Martin Campbell again directs, and, of course, that it be a good script.
He leaves next Tuesday for three weeks' work in ``The White River Kid'' in Arkansas, then returns here to edit his first directorial pic, ``Crazy in Alabama,'' then next year he'll do ``Phantom of the Opera.''
As for the reasons he's not doing the biopic of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, Banderas admits he had been interested, ``until I received so many letters about how many Ataturk had killed, kids he had sodomized -- so I decided against it.''
He also admits he didn't want to make another pic (as with ``Evita'') where they would need bodyguards on the set.
``There are too many beautiful things around, like my wife and child,'' he added.
Copyright ©1998 Reuters Limited. All Rights Reserved.
The latest actor to play 'Zorro' soon may be starring in the screen version of 'Phantom.'
Friday, July 17,1998 - 12:52 PM ET (CBS)
Once in a lifetime, an actor gets to play a role he's dreamed about his whole life.
For Antonio Banderas, it's playing the lead role in the new movie version of The Mask of Zorro, and he tells CBS 'This Morning' Correspondent Mark McEwen that he has loved the character of Zorro ever since he was a child growing up in Malaga, Spain.
An Interview With Antonio Banderas
Only six years ago, Banderas starred in his first English-speaking role, in The Mambo Kings (1992). Since then, the 38-year-old actor has learned English and has appeared in such films as Philadelphia (1993), The House of the Spirits (1994), Interview With The Vampire (1994), and Miami Rhapsody (1995).
Banderas is currently working on his directional debut, a film called Crazy In Alabama, which co-stars his wife, actress Melanie Griffith. He says he's excited about directing, having been in "51 movies in front of the camera."
After his good reviews for his role in Evita (1996), he is being considered for the title role in the film version of The Phantom of the Opera.
He says it was the Phantom project that prompted his withdrawal from a film about the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But the infamous reputation of Ataturk led to intense protests by Greek-Americans, and, McEwen reports, many say that had more to do with Banderas' decision to pass on the film. The director of the Ataturk movie estimated that Banderas and Griffith received as many as 1,000 letters in objection of the $25 million project.
Reported by Mark McEwen Copyright 1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved.
© 1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved.
The Irish Times
Friday, July 17, 1998
By Joe Carroll, Washington
The US: Kemal Atatürk might may have driven the Greek army out of Anatolia after the first World War, but now Greek-Americans have had their revenge by driving Antonio Banderas out of the film in which he was to play the founder of modern Turkey.
Banderas is reported to have withdrawn from the $25 million film following a letter-writing campaign by ethnic Greeks and Armenian-Americans in the US, which feared that Atatürk would be too favourably portrayed.
The withdrawal is a big disappointment to the man behind the film, Tarquin Olivier, son of actor Sir Laurence Olivier.
He told the New York Times that Banderas "has been very enthusiastic but obviously he was very put off by these letters".
Mr Olivier is still hoping to persuade Banderas to come back to play Atatürk but his agent says that he now wants to devote himself full-time to another project - The Phantom of the Opera.
Mr Olivier now fears that freedom of speech and the arts is being threatened. He says that "our contacts with people in the Greek community here tell us that this campaign only involves a small number of people. It's motivated by a feeling of hatred, not only towards Atatürk but towards Turkey in general".
One letter described Atatürk as "a savage maniac" who was also a "child molester of both sexes, a mass murderer, a destroyer of Greek civilisation and in general a disgrace to human civilisation as we know it".
The reports were accompanied by appeals to readers to send protest letters to Banderas and his wife, actress Melanie Griffith. Mr Olivier said that they might have received as many as 1000 letters.
A diplomat at the Turkish embassy in Washington told The Irish Times that he was shocked by the news. Mr Namik Tan said that it was "unbelievable" that politics should be dragged into an artistic event. "We are so disappointed and disillusioned at what is a campaign of defamation" of Atatürk, he said.
However, not all Greek-Americans feel the same way. An editorial in a Greek paper published in Long Island says that the campaign has caused many Greeks "to cringe in embarrassment".
"The end result is to make us look like ethnic hysterics, with these groups' objections usually showing up our own chauvinism and narrow-mindedness more than anything else," the editorial says.
Meanwhile, the search goes on for a new screen Atatürk.
New York Times
July 16, 1998
By STEPHEN KINZER
Debate over the political legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, has upset plans for a film about him that was to have starred Antonio Banderas.
After an intense letter-writing campaign led by Greek-Americans, Banderas withdrew from the project. His agent, Lisa Baum, said he wanted to devote his full energy to another project, "The Phantom of the Opera." Producers of the Ataturk film, however, say Banderas was reacting to pressure from Greek-Americans and others who consider Ataturk unworthy of favorable portrayal.
The principal figure behind the film is Tarquin Olivier, 61, a son of Laurence Olivier. Olivier, a financier, hopes to begin a new phase of his career by producing the film, which he said would cost $25 million exclusive of Banderas' salary.
Eager to keep Banderas in the film because much of the financing is contingent on his participation, Olivier plans to fly to Hollywood this week to meet with him.
"He has been very enthusiastic, but obviously he was very put off by these letters," Olivier said in an interview in New York, where he stopped on his way to Hollywood. "Our contacts with people in the Greek community here tell us that this campaign only involves a small number of people. It's motivated by a feeling of hatred not only toward Ataturk but toward Turkey in general. I'm very much hoping that we can make him see this, and that we don't get into a situation which undermines freedom of speech and freedom of the arts."
Notices of Banderas' intention to play Ataturk began appearing in Greek-American publications several weeks ago. One of them published a letter signed by "a member of the Greek community of N.Y." describing Ataturk as a "savage maniac" who was also "a child molester of both sexes, a mass murderer, a destroyer of Greek civilization and in general a disgrace to human civilization as we know it."
The announcements were accompanied by appeals to readers to send protest letters to Banderas and his wife, actress Melanie Griffith. Olivier estimated that they might have received as many as 1,000 letters.
The campaign has not been universally welcomed by Greek-Americans. An editorial in this week's edition of The Greek American, a weekly newspaper published on New York's Long Island, said it had caused many Greeks "to cringe in embarrassment."
"All-out demonization is not serious," the editorial said. "The end result is to make us look like ethnic hysterics, with these groups' objections usually showing up our own chauvinism and narrow-mindedness more than anything else."
Efforts to make a film about Ataturk, an early 20th century military leader who won glory in battle and went on to forge a modern nation on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, have a long history. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Omar Sharif were among actors involved in such efforts at various times.
This time, however, the project is apparently falling victim to contemporary politics. Some Greek-Americans and Armenian-Americans fear that the film will be reverential, portraying Ataturk as a hero and ignoring what they consider his evil deeds. They fear that such a portrayal might lead to a warming of popular feeling toward Turkey, a historical rival of both Greece and Armenia.
Ataturk was responsible for pushing Greek forces from Anatolia after World War I, but then he pursued a peaceful policy toward Greece. His friendship with the Greek prime minister of the time, Elevtherios Venizelos, became so strong that Venizelos nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934, praising him as "a great reformer" who made "a precious contribution to the cause of peace."
The script for the planned Ataturk film is by an American writer, Timothy Prager, and is based on a 1964 biography by Lord Kinross that is generally considered less than definitive but the best available. Bruce Beresford, whose films have included "Breaker Morant" and "Driving Miss Daisy," has agreed to direct.
Turkish government officials were wary of the idea for many years, fearing that any portrayal showing Ataturk as having human failings might undermine the veritable cult that has grown up around his memory. But Olivier and his Turkish-born wife, Zelfa, said they had won pledges of cooperation from President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz. They said they had not shown the script to either one or to any other Turkish official.
Ataturk, who died in 1938, is a naturally appealing subject for a film biography. A brilliant military officer and social visionary, he was also a ruthless national leader with little patience for the niceties of democracy. His array of personal quirks and his relationship with a European woman add spice to the story.
Olivier said he hoped to make a film comparable to "Gandhi," which gave many filmgoers a positive view not only of Gandhi but also of India. That prospect is precisely what upsets people who believe that any story favorable to a Turkish historical figure would improve the image of modern Turkey.
As far as is known, the letter-writing campaign was generated entirely within the United States. There is no indication of any involvement by government or private figures in either Greece or Armenia.
Copyright 1998 Telegraph Group Limited
The Daily Telegraph
July 2, 1998, Thursday
SECTION: Pg. 11
LENGTH: 634 words
BYLINE: By Alison Boshoff, Media Correspondent
THE SPANISH actor Antonio Banderas has backed off from accepting the title role in a film on the life of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, after a series of threats and protests. The film's co-producer, Tarquin Olivier, the son of Lord Olivier, said that enmity between Turkey and Greece had seriously affected his pounds 25 million project.
Mr Olivier said that three previous attempts to bring the leader to the screen by Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, Kirk Douglas and Omar Sharif had all fallen victim to an Ataturk jinx, with the Turkish authorities refusing to let them go ahead. Now, after 10 years of developing the idea, he has persuaded the Turks to give permission for a film, with a Turkish co-producer, Alinur Velidedeoglu, to be made of their national hero, only to have a spanner thrown in the works by the vehement objections of the Greeks.
Banderas had wanted the role of the charismatic leader after reading a script, but is now reconsidering his position after receiving hate mail, apparently organised through e-mails and Greek -American newspapers. Mr Olivier will fly to America next week to try to salvage Ataturk. "This is the role of a lifetime and should not be lost because of hate mail. My father used to get this kind of abuse when he played Nazis. I think that this is really unreasonable and I hope that Antonio will take it up again, but he has been put in a spot and doesn't want to get involved in controversy. "I have been working on this project for a long time and have sunk a lot of my money and other people's money into it. What is being said about Ataturk is not true, and in any case we do not plan to portray him as a saint. I am hoping that common sense will prevail." Mr Olivier added: "I believe that this is an amazing story about a man who did more for his country than any man in history. He introduced a new alphabet, he gave women the vote, he set up a republican democracy. There is also a compelling love story."
Banderas, who had a starring role in Evita, has read the script and expressed interest in playing the role. But he and his wife, the actress Melanie Griffith, have been sent dozens of e-mails and letters saying that they will be "hated for life" if he takes the part. The letters follow an invitation to protest in a Greek -American newspaper, and accuse Ataturk of being an alcoholic, a child molester, a mass murderer and a "disgrace to human civilisation." The letters also accuse Ataturk of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of Armenians. The New York-based Hellenic Alliance sent a letter to Banderas's agents saying: "We find Mr Banderas an exceptional actor who could find better parts to play than a man who has been found to be a child molester and alcoholic."
Another anonymous "member of the Greek community" wrote: "Mr Banderas, otherwise loved by Greeks all over the world, not only after that will be hated for life but will also be forever associated with corruption of history, disinformation and the portrait of a savage maniac." Mr Olivier said: "I feel sorry that there is such ignorance. The accusations are just not accurate. I am not saying that the massacres did not happen, but at the time they did he was 1,200 miles away fighting in Gallipoli, he was not responsible for them. There is not even a mention of the Armenian massacres in the script in any case because the film is not about them. The film is based on a 1964 biography of Ataturk by the British historian Lord Kinross. It will be directed by Bruce Beresford, of Driving Miss Daisy, and should be ready to start filming by spring 1999. Mr Olivier, who has a Turkish wife, said: "I was completely ignorant about Turkish history but my wife told me about Ataturk and I thought that his life story would make the most brilliant film."
1998 The Daily Telegraph plc, July 2, 1998
Below is an earlier AP news item about Banderas' initial decision to play the role. For "fair use" and educational purposes only:
Saturday, April 25, 1998; 2:48 p.m. EDT
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Spanish film idol Antonio Banderas has been tapped to star in a movie about Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Banderas accepted the role after reading the script based on a 1964 book by British historian Lord Kinross, Turkey's Milliyet newspaper reported Saturday.
The late Sir Lawrence Olivier's movie producer son, Tarquin Olivier, is heading the project. Ataturk, who died in 1938, established the Turkey's secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman empire.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press