Sunday, July 9, 2017

Casting Mary

Does every girl acting in this film have to be named Maria? No, but it helps (remember this, it will make more sense in the coming weeks...)

“We found our Mary!”, Irini Tzortzoglou, our persistent Location Manager, said in an email one quiet summer day last year. Between her and casting agent Chryssa Botou, emails like that were all too common. Their dedication in turning my vision into reality is strong, and I love them for it. So many beautiful women cropped up in our wide casting net: all stunningly gorgeous actors and models but finding “the one” was quite the challenge. 

The character of Mary is special to me. This was someone I created over the course of the past eighteen years. My Mary, beautiful Cretan village girl, is not only stunning, quirky, and fun but she also makes everyone fall in love with, instantly. She transcends the stereotypical “girl next door” paradigm. Men want to be her friend. Women are not intimidated by her incredible beauty. She wins over everyone with her warm and gentle personality. 

Had I created the perfect woman? Would I be able to find her? 

Then, I clicked on the attachment link… an image of THAT girl stared right at me. 

I started googling her furiously. Every photo, commercial video, and poster image was more bewitching and dazzling then the previous one. How is that possible? I dialled Irini right away. 

“Oh my God”, I told her. “You're right, this is our Mary. I love her! We have to find her.” Irini said she was “on it!” and, with Chryssa’s help, took her less than a day to track her down. 

Irini spoke to her personally and told me: “You're going to be impressed with her. She's smart,  she's a sweetheart and she's from Crete!”  

I was starting to see things come together. The one question on all our minds, including the Director’s, was: “Can she act?”  As we prepared for auditions in Athens, having already found many other beautiful and talented candidates, we were hopeful, yet determined to keep an open mind. We wanted to be fair, to look at all of the actors auditioning and give them all a chance. But I was really pulling for one in particular…

We had a fantastic week in Athens. We auditioned the best of the best, for that role and for others. We boarded the flight for Crete feeling confident that we had found at least two possible Mary's. I wondered about THE ONE that had captured my heart. The Cretan beauty we were about to meet. 

The location was the Radisson Blu in Milatos, Crete. A beautiful villa with the sea as a backdrop. It was a stunning, sunny, warm day, in other words, just another day in Crete. The hotel receptionist called: “There's a gorgeous woman waiting to see you, Ms. Dalekos.” 

She was escorted to my villa. I met her face-to-face for the first time and she instantly exceeded my expectations. TFW you meet your soulmate.

Maria Tsagaraki, model, beauty queen, student of literature, daughter of Crete, and soon-to-be feature film star, seemed perfect for the role. I held myself together … that question still lingering: “Can she act?” 

She killed the audition. 

I wanted to cry from the joy I was feeling. George and I knew — without a doubt — that we had our Mary. It's like giving birth to your child. Your creation right there in front you. 

For me, what makes this even more special is Maria’s own personality. A genuine, beautiful, kind soul that truly loves her Cretan roots. She has the Cretan looks, mannerisms, and understanding of Cretan culture. As I've gotten to know Maria over the past year, my love for her has only grown.  

I have been dying to share this experience with all of you who have been a part of this journey. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you one of the most beautiful women in the world, inside and out, our Mary… Maria Tsagaraki. 

Meet her at our Gala in Toronto on September 8 (venue and ticket info coming soon). 

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