My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: Indie hit back bigger and Greeker than ever
When My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released in 2002, little did anyone think the low-budget, independent film would go on to become the highest grossing romantic comedy in US box office history.
Telling the story of a Greek-American woman who falls in love with a non-Greek man - much to the annoyance of her suffocating parents - and the brash culture clash that ensues, the film was a surprise hit.
It also brought "typical" Greek culture to the mainstream, illustrated through Toula's parents desire for her to "marry a Greek boy, make Greek babies and feed everyone until the day I die".
Creator Nia Vardalos says although the film was based on her own family and experience marrying a non-Greek man, she was struck by how many people found her story recognisable: "It's so wild how it translates to all cultures - no matter where, people say to me 'that's my family!'."
After many years of calls for a sequel, a follow-up has finally been made - reuniting the entire original cast including John Corbett and Lainie Kazan, as well as bringing back producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
The first film was the highest grossing romantic comedy in the US - you must be feeling the pressure to live up to those expectations.
No, because I protected myself by working with the same producers and just tried to have fun - if it's not fun, it's not worth it to me. I always think of myself as a fearless idiot and think it's always best to go into something without any expectations, but with standards.
Why did it take so long to write a sequel and were you worried too much time had passed between now and the first film?
I knew the desire was there because every project meeting I would have [with production company Playtone] would end with "Have you thought about sequel?", but the wait is completely my fault.
At the end of the first one I had written that Toula was a mother, but I believe that was wishful thinking I had written it in, because in reality I was in a very private struggle to become a mum. It took me 10 years and on my daughter's first day of kindergarten I was crying so hard people were backing away from the ethnic sobbing mother. Another mother in an effort to calm me down, and said: "Oh come on, in 13 years they'll go off to college and leave us."
And I was struck by such panic - that's when I realised I had morphed into my own suffocating parents and in that moment I got the idea for the sequel. The overarching theme is not do we become our parents, but when do we become our parents.
There's no way that I have not become [Toula's father] Gus, because sitting beside my daughter watching the Olympics I was telling her how each part came from Greece - and my husband was eye-rolling me and I was like "what? It's true!"
Was it easy to get all the original cast back together?
Very easy. I'm such an optimist - I wrote quietly for a long period of time by myself and then at the end of a meeting one day Playtone said to me "how about sequel?" and I said, "how about the script?" and gave it to them. They immediately said we would make it and it was [on screen husband] John Corbett's birthday that day and I got to call him and tell him the news. I said to him: "So do you feel like kissing me again?" and he said in his signature sexy John Corbett voice: "Always baby!"
Did you all just fall into old habits like you were never apart for 10 years?
Very much so. A lot of us are really close - John is one of my closest friends. He was raised by his mum, so he's very comfortable with a woman being in charge. He is very supportive and doesn't feel emasculated at all by it. But there is parity in my scripts - the men have good character arcs and so do the women. And that's all we're asking for when men are writing screenplays - could they look at their roles and say "can that boss be a woman?".
People criticise Hollywood for lazy film-making with the current trend of sequels and remakes - what's your feeling on the issue in relation to this fiim?
Those are different because they are tent pole pictures - we are still an independent film, just released by Universal. I feel like we went against that trend in that we kept the original cast and then didn't bring in great big movie stars which usually happens with the sequel. You have to go bigger - and we went bigger and Greeker and louder, but we didn't go "Hollywood".
What were the challenges of creating a sequel that would keep fans happy but still appeal to new audiences?
I fought against instinct to cast a named actor as our daughter. That would have financially been a good idea to cast somebody with box office appeal, but I wanted to find somebody new like the producers of the first film had done with me. And that's what happened with Elena Kampouris and she happens to be half Greek. She's a really sweet girl and her parents were on set the whole time - and by the way - so were my parents!
The film is being released the same weekend as Batman v Superman - was that a strategic decision to catch all the people that aren't interested in superhero movies?
I hope so - although I had nothing to do with the release date. But we won't be in the theatres like we were last time for a full year because we are a studio release now. So I'm begging people to go opening weekend and prove that an independent release can have a voice against the tent pole movie.
I don't want to annihilate anyone - I want us both to do well. See, there's the Canadian middle child in me coming out!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is on general release now.