Andreas Voustinas: Actor and teacher who worked with Mel Brooks and Jane Fonda
Wednesday 11 August 2010
Andreas Voutsinas appeared in three films by Mel Brooks and coached many actors including Jane Fonda and Warren Beatty.
Born in Khartoum, Voutsinas studied at the Actors Studio in New York where he worked with director Elia Kazan. The following year he appeared in Kazan's Broadway premiere of Archibald MacLeish's JB, a drama about a travelling circus. In 1962 he was back on Broadway, this time as a director, in charge of Neil Jansen and John Haase's comedy The Fun Couple. The cast included Jane Fonda but it folded after three performances. By now Voutsias was Fonda's acting coach, and perhaps more.
Voutsinas was having difficulty making the leap from stage to screen but he knew Anne Bancroft, whose future husband Mel Brooks was developing The Producers. Among the film's host of grotesque cameos was the bizarrely bearded and incredibly camp Carmen Ghia, the "personal assistant" of transvestite theatre director Roger De Bris. Bancoft suggested Voutsinas. He followed the instruction to "look like Rasputin and act like Marilyn Monroe". Doing his own make-up took around three hours a day and he arrived on set early to rehearse, but found being immersed in the role relaxing. But when the film came out in 1968, Voutsinas was horrified and thought he would never work in America again. He relocated to Europe though made occasional forays back to the US.
In France he took a small role in "Metzengerstein", a segment of Histoires extraordinaires (1968), adapted from the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, directed by Roger Vadim and starring Jane Fonda and her brother, Peter. He also started the Théatre des cinquante, an acting school in the Lee Strasberg mould.
In 1970 Brooks called him back to appear in his adaptation of Ilf and Petrov's The Twelve Chairs, one of Brooks's undeservedly lesser-known efforts. Ten years later he played the camp Bearnaise in Brooks' French Revolution section of The History of the World: Part I.
While continuing to teach, he appeared in a series of European films, though most of them didn't travel. He also turned up in lesser-known works by well-known directors. In 1978 he appeared in the blacklisted Jules Dassin's A Dream of Passion and in 1984 had a role in Sam Fuller's noir-nouvelle vague Les voleurs de la nuit. In 1988 came one of his few high-profile titles, playing the priest in Luc Besson's The Big Blue.
Andreas Voutsinas, actor and teacher: born Khartoum 22 August 1932; died Athens 8 June 2010.
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