Sometimes in Hollywood, all it takes is a good mentor to help turn dreams into reality. Nia Vardalos has “fairy god-sister” Rita Wilson to thank for influencing her to take My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the big screen.
“When the studios returned my screenplay for My Big Fat Greek Wedding unopened, I turned it into a solo stage show,” Nia, 60, shared in a recent interview for AARP The Magazine’s August/September 2023 issue. “Rita came to the show and said, ‘This should be a movie.’ She saw something, liked it and thought other people would like it.”
The first installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding premiered in theaters in 2002. The success of the Academy Award-nominated film sparked a sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which was released in 2016. Fans of the franchise were excited to learn that My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 was in production in June 2022.
For Nia, having her support system by her side throughout her success has been the cherry on top of an incredible film career.
“If you have advocates, like Rita and my mom, who believe in you and find what you do is valid, you’re going to go pretty far,” she continued.
Nia channeled her emotions from her real life when it came to writing the third installment of the series, which follows the vibrant Portokalos family and their offspring.
“The inspiration for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is simple: I lost my dad, and then we lost [actor] Michael Constantine,” she said.
Constantine played patriarch Costas “Gus” Portokalos in the first two films before his death at age 94 on August 21, 2021, from natural causes. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 marked his final acting performance.
“I took all the grief, and I wrote what was happening — not only to me but to people who lose a parent,” Nia added of the devastating loss and how it influenced My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3. “In the film, the father’s last wish was that we go back to his village, and off goes the Portokalos family!”
As the release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 nears, Nia shared some inspiring words to live by that have helped advance her career.
“When you’re from a funny, loud Greek family, you don’t fit in at school. I wrote Greek Wedding from that outsider perspective,” she said. “What I’ve found is that no one fits in. No one thinks they’re cool. The people who think they’re cool peak in high school. We know them. And then we see them later and they’re working someplace depressing.”