Master actor cherishes memory of director
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily NewsTurkish master actor Halit Akçatepe recently received an honorary award from the Istanbul Film Festival committee in the 69th year of his career, but he believes producer-director Ertem Eğilmez’s genius is behind the success of the comedy films that made him famous in the late 1970s. The festival included a special screening of “Süt Kardeşler” (The Foster Brothers), starring Akçatepe, Şener Şen, Adile Naşit, Ayşen Gruda, and the late Kemal Sunal.
Eğilmez was born in 1929 in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, and died in 1989, becoming one of the most celebrated Turkish filmmakers along the way. As a director, producer and screenwriter, he is known for his involvement with some of the most popular films in Turkish film history, many of which were made by his production company Arzu Film. Between 1961 and 1986, he produced 69 films and directed 44. The comedy films he produced in the late 1970s remain among Turkey’s greatest comedies, and boast an all-star ensemble cast. It was also thanks to Eğilmez’s genius that this all-star cast came to be, Akçatepe said. “He made it quite slowly, and recruited us in turn. We were paid a wage. He used to pay us weekly and we were not allowed to play in other companies’ films.”
Akçatepe feels these films retain their comic power after such a long a time due to the fact that Eğilmez never went for ordinary jokes but instead sought a “universal humor.” “In another 36 years they’ll still be laughing while watching these films. Eğilmez’s comedy is a quest for a timeless sense of humor that appeals to everyone.” The director would not allow the actors to add to the written text, Akçatepe said. “He used to say, ‘just do your line and that’s it.’ But this is not to say that he did not value our thoughts. On the contrary, we were involved in the writing process.”
The cast would meet at Eğilmez’s house every day for over a month to work on the script after a project was signed, said Akçatepe. “He liked to brainstorm with us. All the films I took part in are the result of the same collaborative approach.” He said that once the team decided on the outlines of the script it would be sent to Sadık Şendil, who would write the dialogue. “Eğilmez was meticulous. He would only confirm a script after the fourth or fifth rewrite.”
Although it is the case that today’s Turkish TV shows infamously require brutal working hours of their actors, directors and crew, Akçatepe said that on Eğilmez’s sets the cast and crew never worked late. “Because he was a hardworking perfectionist Eğilmez tired himself out quickly, so we had to finish by around 7 p.m. When he was tired he became impatient. He once made the lighting director hold a light in place for an entire scene because he just couldn’t wait for it to be mounted in place.”