|My Big Fat Greek Wedding|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Zwick|
|Written by||Nia Vardalos|
|Edited by||Mia Goldman|
|Distributed by||IFC Films|
|Box office||$368.7 million|
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a 2002 independent romantic comedy film directed by Joel Zwick and written by Nia Vardalos, who also stars in the film as Fotoula "Toula" Portokalos, a middle class Greek American woman who falls in love with non-Greek upper middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Ian Miller. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and, at the 75th Academy Awards, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
A sleeper hit, the film became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, and grossed $241.4 million in North America, despite never reaching number one at the box office during its release. It was the highest-grossing film to accomplish this feat for 14 years until the animated film Sing grossed $268 million in 2016.
Fotoula "Toula" Portokalos is her family's black sheep. Her staunchly proud Greek immigrant parents, Gus and Maria, raised their daughters to follow their cultural traditions of marriage and motherhood. Her older sister Athena met her family's expectations by marrying young to another Greek and becoming, in Toula's words, "a Greek baby-breeding machine".
Toula, however, is 30 years old, unmarried, and still lives with her parents. She works at Dancing Zorba's, her family's restaurant in Chicago. She longs for an independent life away from the restaurant and her intrusive family. Frumpy and cynical, she fears her life will never change. One day at the restaurant, Toula notices a handsome young customer--Ian Miller, a high school teacher. She tries to speak to him, only to embarrass herself with her social awkwardness. Ian is bewildered by her behavior, and Toula figures she's lost her chance to get to know him.
In a small step towards independence, Toula wants to take computer classes at a local community college. When Toula approaches her father Gus about the classes, he forbids it, thinking she wants to leave her family. He insists she's "smart enough for a girl" and it is too dangerous for her to be out in the city alone. After some crafty persuasion by his wife, Maria, Gus reluctantly permits Toula to attend classes. As her classes progress, Toula gains self-confidence. She trades her thick glasses for contact lenses and her baggy, drab clothes for flattering, colorful outfits. She updates her hairstyle and learns to apply makeup. With her new computer skills and polished image, Toula asks her mother and her Aunt Voula to convince Gus that Toula should work at Voula's travel agency instead of the restaurant.
Toula thrives in her new job, and one day she sees Ian walking by the travel agency. He notices Toula, not recognizing that she is the same woman who tried to talk to him at Dancing Zorba's. Despite Toula's lingering shyness, they introduce themselves and begin dating. When Ian realizes Toula was the woman at the restaurant, Toula is sure Ian will lose interest. Instead, he loves her even more for who she is, and they become a couple.
Because Ian is not Greek, Toula keeps the relationship secret from her family, but her parents find out when a family friend sees them kissing in a parking lot. As she feared, Gus is angry because Ian is not an ethnic Greek--referring to Ian as a "Xeno"--and both Gus and Maria tell Toula to end the relationship. Toula insists she loves Ian. Her parents try to dissuade her by bringing various Greek bachelors home to meet her, all to no avail.
When Ian proposes to Toula, she happily accepts, but Gus is upset that Ian did not ask him for permission to date Toula, let alone marry her. Ian tries to adapt to the family's Greek customs and mannerisms. Ian and Toula cannot marry in the Greek Orthodox Church unless Ian converts, and Toula is already worried the wedding will be a fiasco. She suggests to Ian that they elope instead. He refuses, saying if it's that important to her family to marry in their religion, then he will be baptized Greek Orthodox. Ian's willingness to do this encourages Gus and Maria to gradually accept Ian into the family.
As Toula feared, her numerous well-meaning female relatives take over much of the wedding plans, while the men keep testing Ian. Her cousin Nikki selects tacky bridesmaids dresses without Toula's permission; her brother Nick semi-jokingly threatens Ian that he'll kill him if he ever hurts Toula. Other cousins trick Ian into saying inappropriate things in Greek. When Toula invites Ian's quiet, reserved parents to meet her parents at their home, she insists that it be a simple dinner with just the six of them. Toula and Ian arrive to find all of Toula's extended family at the dinner, where they dance and drink for hours. Ian's parents are unaware of Greek culture and are shocked by the family's rambunctiousness.
On the wedding day, Toula is nervous and surrounded by relatives, but the traditional Greek wedding goes perfectly. At the reception, Gus gives a speech accepting Ian and his parents as family. He then presents the newlyweds with a deed to a house. Both Ian and Toula are deeply touched by Gus's generosity. Following the reception, Toula and Ian leave for a honeymoon in Greece, both appreciating the craziness of their Greek family.
An epilogue shows the couple's life six years later. Toula got pregnant "a minute later" after their honeymoon with their daughter Paris. As Ian and Toula are walking Paris from their house to Greek school, Paris asks why she has to go to Greek school. Toula replies that she had to go to Greek school as a child, so Paris will too. But she assures her that when the time comes, she can marry whomever she wants. As they walk, it is revealed that their home is next door to Toula's parents.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding started as a one-woman play written by and starring Vardalos, performed for six weeks at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Los Angeles in the summer of 1997. Vardalos later jokingly stated that she only wrote the play "to get a better agent." The play was based on Vardalos's own family in Winnipeg in Canada and on her experience marrying a non-Greek man (actor Ian Gomez). The play was popular, and was sold out for much of its run, in part due to Vardalos's marketing it across Greek Orthodox churches in the area. A number of Hollywood executives and celebrities saw it, including actress Rita Wilson, who is herself of Greek origin; Wilson convinced her husband, actor Tom Hanks, to see it as well.
Vardalos began meeting various executives about making a film version of the play and began writing a screenplay as well. However, the meetings proved fruitless because the executives insisted on making changes that they felt would make the film more marketable, which Vardalos objected to: these included changing the plot, getting a known actress in the lead role (Marisa Tomei was one name mentioned), and changing the family's ethnicity to Hispanic. Two months after the play's initial run ended, Hanks's production company, Playtone, contacted Vardalos about producing a film based on her vision for it; they also agreed to remount the play in early 1998, this time at LA's Globe Theatre. Hanks later said that casting Vardalos in the lead role "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."
In 2000, while in Toronto doing pre-production for the film, Vardalos and Playtone producer Gary Goetzman overheard actor John Corbett (who was in town shooting the film Serendipity) at a bar, telling a friend of his about having read the script for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and being upset that he couldn't make the auditions. Vardalos and Goetzman approached Corbett and offered him the part of Ian Miller on the spot, which he accepted.
Despite being based on life in the Greek community of Winnipeg, the film was set in Chicago and shot in both Toronto and Chicago. Toronto's Ryerson University and Greektown neighborhood feature prominently in the film. The home used to depict Gus and Maria Portokalos's residence (as well as the home bought next door at the end of the film for Toula and Ian) is located on Glenwood Crescent just off O'Connor Drive in East York. The real home representing the Portokalos' residence actually has most of the external ornamentation that was shown in the film. Also, some minor parts of the movie were shot at Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto.
After a February 2002 premiere, it was initially released in the United States via a limited release on April 19, 2002 before receiving a wider release worldwide over the summer, including a wide release in the United States on August 2.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a sleeper hit and grew steadily from its limited release. Despite never hitting the number one spot and being an independent film with a $5 million budget, it ultimately grossed over $368.7 million worldwide, becoming one of the top romantic films of the 21st century. It was the fifth highest-grossing film of 2002 in the United States and Canada, with USD$241,438,208, and the highest-grossing romantic comedy in history. Domestically, it also held the record for the highest-grossing film never having been number one on the weekly North American box office charts until the 2016 release of the animated film Sing. However, adjusted for inflation, the gross of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was still higher, equivalent to $322 million in 2016. The film is among the most profitable of all time, with a 6150% return on a (inflation adjusted) cost of $6 million to produce.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating 76% based on 129 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Though it sometimes feels like a television sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is good-hearted, lovable, and delightfully eccentric, with a sharp script and lead performance from Nia Vardalos." On Metacritic, which assigns a rating based on reviews, the film has an average score of 62 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In 2012, a 10th anniversary edition of the film was released via DVD and Blu-ray. The edition contains a digital copy of the film and features deleted scenes as well as a 30-minute retrospective with Vardalos and Corbett.
The cast (with the exception of Vardalos, who had a separate deal), as well as Hanks's production company, Playtone, later sued the studio for their part of the profits, charging that Gold Circle Films was engaging in so-called "Hollywood accounting" practices.
The film inspired the brief 2003 TV series My Big Fat Greek Life, with most of the major characters played by the same actors, with the exception of Steven Eckholdt replacing Corbett as the husband. Corbett had already signed on to the TV series Lucky. He was scheduled to appear as the best friend of his replacement's character, but the show was cancelled before he appeared. The show received poor reviews from critics noting the random character entrances and serious plot "adjustments" that did not match the film.
In a 2009 interview for her film My Life in Ruins, asked about a possible sequel for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Vardalos stated that she had an idea for a sequel and had started writing it, hinting that, like Ruins, the film would be set in Greece.
Asked about a sequel again in a November 2012 interview, she stated:
Well, actually, yes. And it's only now that I've really become open to the idea. Over the years, I've heard from everybody about what the sequel should be. People next to me at Starbucks would say, 'Hey, let me tell you my idea,' and I'd be like, 'Hey, I'm just trying to get a cup of coffee.' I never thought much about it. But then when John (Corbett) and I recently sat down to do that interview (for the 10th anniversary edition), we laughed so hard through the whole thing. It made me think that it's time. He said, "Come on, write something, will you?" And I now think I will. We have such an easy chemistry together. And we have chemistry because we never 'did it.' That's the surefire way to kill chemistry in a scene. You have to make sure your actors don't 'do it' off-screen. If they don't 'do it,' then they'll have chemistry on camera.
On May 27, 2014, various news and media outlets reported that a sequel was in the works. Nia Vardalos later confirmed this via Twitter, and she also has written a script for the film. The first trailer for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was aired on NBC's The Today Show on November 11, 2015 and it was released on March 25, 2016, to mixed reviews from critics and modest box office success.