There is a memorable scene in Theo Angelopoulos’s award-winning film “Ulysses’ Gaze” when an exiled filmmaker played by Harvey Keitel is being driven from Greece into Albania by a cabbie portrayed by the late Thanassis Veggos. Their journey is hampered by a snowstorm and as the two men share a drink from the same bottle, Veggos delivers a lament for his fading homeland. “Greece is dying,” he says. “We’re dying as a people. We’ve come full circle; I don’t know how many years, among broken stones and statues… and we’re dying. But if Greece is going to die, she’d better do it quickly because the agony lasts too long and makes too much noise.”
Ironically, it was Veggos’s death last week that made these words ring truer than ever. Succumbing on May 3 to a long battle with ill health, Veggos’s passing seemed to confirm that Greece is watching its true heroes agonizingly disappear one by one. The 84-year-old had entertained Greek cinema, theater and TV audiences for more than 50 years with his own brand of frantic comedy and everyman pathos. But his reputation as a hardworking, honest and generous man was just as significant in establishing him as a respected and loved figure as his acting talent.