MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
ABOUT THIS FILM

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
(2002)


This page was created on August 23, 2002
This page was last updated on May 29, 2005


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ABOUT THIS FILM
About the Production

Nia Vardalos had a story to tell; a big fat autobiographical story about the Greek family she grew up with in Winnipeg, Canada. Developing it for the stage, she wrote and performed the one-woman show in Los Angeles because, she laughs, “I wanted to get a better agent.”
Since she had been telling hilarious stories about her family for most of her life, a friend encouraged her to write the show. “I basically took every Greek wedding I’ve ever been to, including mine, and on a scale of one to ten, I turned it up to an eleven.”

The popular one-woman show drew numerous Hollywood executives, hundreds of Greeks and one Greek actress in particular, Rita Wilson. She brought her mother to see the show and then visited back stage. “She was gracious and wonderful and said this should be a movie,” says Vardalos, who, unbeknownst to anyone, had already completed a screenplay adaptation. And a week later, Wilson sent her husband, Tom Hanks, to see the show. Unlike his wife, Hanks didn’t visit her backstage. “Instead, he wrote me a beautiful letter – how marrying a Greek woman, and marrying into a Greek family had changed his life,” recalls Vardalos. “I would call my mom every week or so and read her the letter and she would cry.”

Two months later, Hanks called her at home and said his production group, The Playtone Company, wanted to make her movie. It’s at this juncture, says Nia, that her “Cinderella story” began. Although several production companies had offered to develop a movie, including one who wanted to turn it into an Hispanic story, Hanks, his producing partner Gary Goetzman, and Rita were willing to take a chance on Vardalos --- and make the film with her in the starring role.

“She did a smart thing,” says Hanks. She said “this is my story and I want to play it. That actually brings a huge amount of integrity to the piece, because it’s Nia’s version of her own life and her own experience. I think that shows through on the screen and people recognize it.”Director Joel Zwick concurs with Tom. “I’ll tell you something; not only does the camera love Nia but she is one tremendous actor. Her own buoyant spirit permeates everything she does. That has been a phenomenal surprise, and it makes this movie special.”

“When I look back, all I can say is that I’m incredibly lucky,” says Vardalos. “Everyone has a family that they think is funny enough to put on film, but I am actually getting that opportunity --- which is the rarest and most incredible gift that Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Gary Goetzman could give me.”

“I owe them for life,“ she continues. “Gary could come to me in the middle of the night and say ‘We have a body and you need to hide it’. I’d say ‘All right, Gary. I owe you.’”

Vardalos met her husband, actor Ian Gomez, when they were both performing with the “Second City” troupe in Chicago in the early 1990s. “My family was not interested in meeting Ian because he wasn’t Greek,” she recalls. “It’s not that they had anything against him. It’s just my family believes there are two types of people. Greeks and non-Greeks.” (Gomez eventually won over the family, and, like the character of Ian Miller, he was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church.)

“I believe that the movie is about any family that loves you to the point of smothering, which is any ethnic family. You don’t have to be Greek…. Italians, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, they’re all the same,” says Vardalos. Joey Fatone, a singer-dancer with the world-famous recording group N’Sync, who makes his motion picture debut as Toula’s cousin Angelo, agrees with her. “I haven’t been to a big, fat Greek wedding, but I’ve been to a lot of big, fat Italian weddings. And I’ll tell you something – they’re pretty close!”

Actress Gia Carides, who plays cousin Nikki, an Australian whose father was Greek adds “I grew up in suburban Greek Australia, and the movie is set in suburban Greek Chicago. I met Nia very recently and bonded with her almost immediately as a sister. If you come from a cultural background that is closely knit, like Greek families, you’re going to relate to each other.” (Like Vardalos, Carides also married a non-Greek actor Anthony LaPaglia, whose roots are half-Italian and half-Dutch).

Luck may have also played a part in the casting of John Corbett as Ian Miller, the WASPy high school teacher who falls in love with Nia’s character, Toula. On location in Toronto to film a John Cusack film called “Serendipity,” Corbett had recently read a script he loved called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and had called his agent to get a reading. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and the reading couldn’t be coordinated with his shooting schedule. That night, he went to the hotel bar. He was telling a friend about a funny script he had read, and was overheard by Vardalos and producer Gary Goetzman, who were sitting near him. “They introduced themselves, and within ten minutes of meeting them, Gary said, ‘Do you want to do it?’” recalls Corbett. “I said ‘Are you offering me the role?’ And they said ‘Yes.’ A week later I was filming the movie.”

Filmed on location in Toronto, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” benefited from the city’s large Greek population, many of whom volunteered to be extras at the large wedding scenes. They joined a host of Vardalos’ relatives, who came in from Winnipeg and points beyond to join in the festivities. “The character of Gus (portrayed by Michael Constantine) is pretty close to my dad, Gus,” Vardalos admits. “He walked around at the reception scenes saying ‘Hello everybody, I’m Gus’. He probably thinks the movie is called “My Dad Gus.”

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