Break out the Windex, company's coming.
Throughout the spring of 2002, moviegoers all over the country were saying "Opa!" to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the sleeper hit with an A-plus-list producing pedigree that made everyone in attendance at the Portokalos-Miller nuptials feel like part of the family.
And with Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Joey Fatone and more favorites back for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, finally in theaters Sept. 8 after years of the timing being just not quite right for everyone to say "I do," what better time to reveal the origins of the feel-good love story between moviegoers and the little rom-com that could?
Based on writer-star Vardalos' own marriage to an American of non-Greek provenance and the humorous aspects of his eventual acceptance into her boisterous, tight-knit Greek-Canadian clan, the culture clash at the heart of the script turned out to be a premise a lot of folks could relate to, no matter their backgrounds. Directed by Joel Zwick, the film cost an estimated $5 million to make and grossed $368.7 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing movies of the year.
Not that Vardalos threw a wedding just for the gifts.
"When everyone talked about the financial success of the movie, I really didn't know what they were talking about as I didn't understand that part of the industry," she reflected to Huffington Post in 2012. "All that mattered to me was that I finally felt heard."
She wasn't even bothered by those that approached her to "tell me I was so lucky to have gotten such a part with my looks," she continued. "Because I grew up with such confidence, none of that registered with me."
The film resonating with so many people around the globe was what stuck with her, Vardalos continued. "I was in Times Square and a bunch of Japanese tourists looked at me and started shouting 'Toula!' I loved it," she shared. "It's these tiny moments of connection that register with me the most and always have."
If she sounded a little nonchalant about her film's smash-hit status, Vardalos—a writer, comedian and actress with a handful of bit parts to her name before this—once again pointed to how she was raised.
"It's impossible for success to go to your head with a Greek mom—no way," she explained. "When I got a call telling me that never before had a film playing in so few theaters been seen by so many people, I hung up and told my mom, 'Hey, I think something huge is happening with the movie.' She said, 'That's so nice...Now, will you take the chicken out of the oven?'"
And if you don't eat meat, not to worry, she'll make lamb. Here are 20 secrets about the making of My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
The long-awaited My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, in which Toula's parents find out they're not officially married in the eyes of the Greek Orthodox Church and they decide to have the big fat nuptials of Maria Portokalos' dreams, was a much more modest success upon its release in 2016, grossing $90.6 million worldwide.
But Vardalos got cranking on a third script, ultimately dedicating it to her onscreen dad Michael Constantine, who died Aug. 31, 2021. A month later she posted a photo of herself reunited with Kazan, Gia Carides (cousin Nikki) and Louis Mandylor (brother Nick), sharing that Constantine had been rooting for the Portokaloses' story to go on, even if he couldn't take part.
"I wrote the screenplay to reflect Michael's decision and will always treasure his last messages to me, hoping we were filming soon," Vardalos captioned the snap. "The various variants have made indies difficult, but we are hopeful. Please do stop calling my mom to ask if you can be in it...and please do not tell me your ideas, the script is finished."
In case you think she was exaggerating, Vardolos told Huffington Post in 2012 that for a long time she couldn't even go out for coffee without getting a sequel pitch.
"Over the years, I've heard from everybody about what the sequel should be," she explained. "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.'"
Make that an ouzo and save us a seat at the table.
(Originally published April 19, 2022, at 3 a.m. PT)