Prior to 2002, Nia Vardalos was best known as a television character actress with one-off appearances on such shows as “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.”
But all that changed in the spring of 2002, when My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the family comedy she wrote and starred in, began a box office domination that lasted well into the next year and culminated in total grosses of more than $350 million worldwide. The film quickly became one of the most successful independent films of all time (it was made for just $5 million) and earned Vardalos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Unlike other “overnight sensations,” who sign on for any and all projects that come their way following a rocket ride to superstardom, Vardalos has remained relatively quiet in the years since My Big Fat Greek Mania. Following the movie’s short-lived small-screen incarnation, Vardalos wrote and starred in Connie and Carla, opposite Toni Collette and David Duchovny, and has had a recurring role on TBS’ “My Boys.”
On June 5th, she returns to the big screen with My Life in Ruins. Later this year, Vardalos will reunite with her Big Fat Greek co-star, John Corbett, for I Hate Valentine’s Day, another romantic comedy which she wrote, stars in and which will mark her debut as a director. Here, the new mom carves a few minutes out of her busy schedule to Take 10 with MM.
1. When did you first realize you were a moviemaker?
From the moment I was allowed into the editing room. It’s like being the puppet master.
2. As an actor, what is the one thing you look for in a script?
Even if I don’t like them, I want to care about the characters.
3. As a writer, what is the one thing you look for in a producer?
Someone who will challenge me to do my best work—and never request a scene that’s a rip-off of another movie.
4. As a producer, what is the one thing you look for in a director?
If they can’t tell a good joke, they’ll suck at moviemaking.
5. In light of the trend toward independent moviemaking, is Hollywood still relevant?
Fortunately (and unfortunately) there is an audience for every kind of movie.
6. What issue do you wish the entertainment industry would pay more attention to?
Equal rights for all.
7. What’s your all-time favorite movie quote?
“And finally Monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.” John Cleese in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
8. Describe the movie you’d most want to make (but probably never will).
An exposé of online porn.
9. If you weren’t a moviemaker, what would you be doing right now?
I would be a small-town florist who puts together weekend community theater musicals.
10. Fill in the blank: What I really want to do is
… be a long-legged, smokin’ hot rock star. Doesn’t everybody?
(Image courtesy IFC Films)