Costa-Gavrav

Filmmaker Costa-Gavras at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / June 14, 2013)

Even at 80, Costa-Gavras is fighting the good fight.

The Greek-born, naturalized French writer-director best known for his politically charged films such as 1969's Oscar-winning "Z" and 1982's "Missing," found himself in the middle of police action in April in Istanbul.

Costa-Gavras and fellow directors Mike Newell and Jan Ole Gerster were part of a protest condemning the demolition of the historical Emek Cinema.

CHEAT SHEET: L.A. Film Festival

"It was very peaceful," Costa-Gavras said Friday over a coffee at a West Hollywood hotel. Lively and still strikingly handsome, the filmmaker spoke with the same passion that imbues his films.

"It was a great theater," he said of the historic 1924 building that was closed in 2010. "They want to destroy it to build a kind of supermarket. I said to the crowd, 'It is the wrong thing to destroy the past just for commercial reasons.' Then vroom."

The police descended with water cannons. Costa-Gavras and others fled to a local bakery to wait "for the storm to pass by."

The filmmaker shook his head.

"It is a comment of the time," he lamented. "Everything is for money. They change everything to make money to make more money."

And money just happens to be the subject of his latest film, "Capital," which screens Monday evening at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

"An Evening With Costa-Gavras" will feature him in conversation with screenwriter Mark Boal, no stranger to controversial political movies himself, having won the Oscar for writing 2009's "The Hurt Locker" and earning a nomination for 2012's controversial "Zero Dark Thirty."

PHOTOS: L.A. Film Festival arrivals and the scene

"Costa-Gavras is a giant slayer," Boal said in a statement. "And a serious artist. I've tried to learn from him. Well, actually, I have tried to steal from him."

"Capital," which opened in France last year and will be released here in October by Cohen Media Group, is a thriller that explores what he sees as the dark side of capitalism. French stand-up comedian and actor Gad Elmaleh plays a young executive who becomes chief executive of an important French bank. Gabriel Byrne also appears as a Machiavellian figure who runs a hedge fund in Miami.

"I stated more than 10 years ago that I would like to make a movie about money," Costa-Gavras noted. "How money can corrupt people and how it becomes, little by little, kind of a religion — more money, more cars, more houses. We have gotten to the point where we have more and more rich people and more and more poor people. The middle class is shrinking."

Costa-Gavras has been making movies for nearly five decades, earning strong reviews in France and the U.S. for his first film, the 1965 mystery-thriller "The Sleeping Car Murders." But it was the breathtaking thriller "Z," a thinly veiled dramatized account of the 1963 assassination of liberal Greek politician Gregoris Lambrakis, that put him on the international cinematic map.

Not only did "Z" win the foreign language film Oscar and an Academy Award for its fast-paced, taut editing, Costa-Gavras earned best director and screenplay nominations. "Z" also became the first foreign-language film to earn a best picture Oscar nomination in more than 30 years.

Hollywood studios and producers bombarded him with scripts.

CHEAT SHEET: L.A. Film Festival

"The problem with Hollywood at that time is that they used to send all kind of scripts," Costa-Gavras said. "Sometimes great ones — among the scripts was 'The Godfather.'"