Opa! It's Time for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2!
There are some movies that I can literally watch over and over again and honestly, it never gets old. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is one of those films. From the first moment I saw it, to the time my son figured out how to do a dead pan impression of the "bi-bopsy" scene from the original film, there is something truly special about this movie that has struck a chord with my family. So much so that last year, at my son's Movie Themed Bar Mitzvah, we even had a table for our Greek cousins with the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" Poster as a centerpiece!
So imagine my thrill and anticipation when I was invited to attend a screening of the film's sequel, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" and the chance to meet the cast at a press junket in New York City!
While I can't give away any spoilers from the film which opens nationwide on March 25 -- and trust me, there are a lot of them -- I am here to tell you that the sequel is fantastic. It will have you laughing out loud, shedding tears and smiling from ear to ear as you get to see the incredibly hilarious Portokalos family back together again.
"My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," is the long-awaited follow-up to the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time. Written by Academy Award nominee Nia Vardalos, who stars alongside the entire returning cast of favorites, the film reveals a Portokalos family secret that will bring the beloved characters back together for an even bigger and Greeker wedding. Take a look at the trailer...
How Elena Kampouris Landed the Role of a Lifetime...
At the press junket, we met teen actress Elena Kampouris, who plays Nia Vardolos' and John Corbett's daughter in the film. We learned that Elena is in fact half Greek and half French American and she shared the amazing story behind how she landed the part:
Elena: It's really a funny story. It's a very interesting process, because when I got the audition it went to my mom's email and I saw it and it was a jaw dropping moment. I was like, "What, they're making a sequel after all these years, too?" It was the last thing I was expecting. So I was freaking out, but I'm like--there's a part of me, my stomach kind of dropped because I'm like, whenever I tell people I'm Greek, nobody ever believes me.
So I thought, I don't really have high chances for this, and also, if I don't get the role, which is likely, if I ever see the movie, it's going to taint the way that I see the film, a film that's so beloved to me because it's like, that could have been me.
So there was a lot of pressure, and I didn't want to tell my father about it because he's the Greek father who is very proud and he raised me playing that movie over and over telling me, "This is the finest film in all of filmmaking history. This is the movie. You should be in this movie. You'd be perfect for this movie." He actually said that I would be perfect to be in this movie when I was little, so it's like jeez, the pressure's on, right?
So when that came in, I'm like, "I can't tell him. Mom, don't tell him." Of course, he's a Greek. He finds out and he's like, "Elena, call them. Tell them you will do the movie." I said, "Okay, so it doesn't work like that. There's a process." He says, "You're Greek. You can do the movie. You're Greek. Tell them you're Greek and they'll let you do the movie."
I'm like, "There's a process here. If I'm lucky. Five, six callbacks. Maybe then I will have the privilege of auditioning for Nia in person. But he didn't understand it. He's just like, "You're Greek. You should be able to do it." And I'm like, "Yes, well I'm not even a convincing Greek." So for some reason, I did tape for it.
I ended up being called back and I did a chemistry read with Alex Wolff who plays Bennett in the movie, who I love...after that chemistry read, we were flown into Toronto for the day. We flew in in the morning and we went in to meet Nia, Kirk [Jones, Director], Gary [Goetzman, Producer] and all the producers. And it was like, we had the plane ride together so we got to know each other, which really helped.
But once we were in the room, we did our thing, we were asked to leave and wait in the waiting room. They called us back in. Nia sat down. She was in the middle, I was here, he was here. She's like, "Okay, guys. We're going to do some improv together." And I'm like, "Wow, I hope this is a good sign." And so we're about to get started and she's like, "You know what? I'm just kidding. You guys got the roles."
I started bawling my eyes out, and of course I'm Greek. We're very expressive, animated people. I couldn't help myself. I'm bawling and it's really embarrassing. There's snot and it's not pretty and I'm trying to keep myself together here and they're just standing there. I'm in awe of Nia because she's such a presence.
And so by some miracle, it worked out. And we had the best plane ride back home ever. Alex and I were celebrating, because if you could imagine if it didn't go well, that would have been one long plane ride back home. That would have been like an eternity. So it was very magical, that experience. And before we actually flew back home from Toronto, they actually sent us straight from the casting office to our fittings.
So to get the news and then to go straight to the fitting and get our costumes for our characters was like, surreal. Surreal.
Andrea Martin and Joey Fatone...
The moment Andrea Martin walked into the room, she had everyone in stitches. As she looked out the window of the Mandarin Oriental and saw the incredible skyline, she instantly burst into song. Eventually, she and co-star Joey Fatone took their seats and shared how much they loved reprising their roles and reuniting with their fellow cast members.
Joey Fatone: "I think keeping the magic, in a sense, was of course a huge part of Nia. Because obviously being the writer and learning from experiences, of course, her having a child now. Back then when she didn't have a child and she couldn't really write from it, because I think she didn't have experience from it. So here doing that I think now, and letting it settle in after 14, 15 years later, it has definitely been a treat to see the things that happened."
Andrea Martin: For all of us, I think, the movie's been kept very alive in the last 14 years, because it was so successful. People have a great love for the film. So over the years, people have come up to me and say, "Do a little bit." "What do you mean you don't eat no meat?" In fact, all the time. I'm doing a play right now at the Roundabout and people--
I'm going to go from Greek to a Cockney accent. Anyway, and so I'll finish the two-and-a-half hours of this play and then they'll say, "What do you mean you don't eat no meat?" It's like, all right. Have I done anything else? So it's felt like it's been very alive and so in that way, actually, the first day didn't seem like 14 years had passed. It really felt like yesterday. And we knew each other. It wasn't like a new cast, so it was just great familiarity and great affection for one another.
Nia Vardolos shares how the story for the sequel was born...
Nia Vardolos: I had written at the end of the first movie that Toula and Ian were parents. And in reality, the struggle to become a parent was real for me. It was very long and then I did become a mom. Happy ending. And on my daughter's first day of Kindergarten, I was crying so hard and so loud that other moms were backing away from me. And somebody said, "Hey, come on. In 13 years, they're going to go off to college. What's the big deal?" And I went, "What?" And that's the moment that I realized I might have had the idea for the sequel and I went away and started writing that day.
John Corbett shares how the cast was able to recreate movie magic...thanks to Nia...
John Corbett: How do you recreate some sort of magic that happened on a few million-dollar movie that may or may not see the light of day 15 years ago? When we made the first one, the World Trade Towers were still standing. That's how long ago it was. Now to come back and try to recreate that is not something that was in my hands at all. It was mostly in hers by putting pencil to paper, and then this guy making those moments happen. So I'm the wrong guy to be answering that. But I think, having seen the second movie, that it happened. Somehow, that magic happened twice, because this movie does it for me.
Vardolos reflects on the feedback she received over the years from fans of the first film...
Nia Vardolos: I think that people go through real tragedies and we have had the benefit of getting letters all these years from people who have told us about their lives. So what I went through in my quest to be a mom does not compare, in any way. But in the quiet time that I took to reflect on it, it made me a better person.
I'm so grateful that I didn't have a biological child, because my daughter, meeting my daughter, she was almost three living in American foster care, all that happened led me to my real daughter. So in the same way, I am so grateful that the idea for the sequel and the desire to do the sequel did not come to me. Because what I went through informed my writing and let me go deeper with this next one.
And we weren't afraid of that. We weren't afraid to show what a real marriage can be like and we weren't afraid to show that this family has aged, and that's okay. They all look like they've been dipped in pickle juice. But families go through things, and Kirk wasn't afraid to show that and create a very safe environment on set.
"Try is this way," you would say. "Try it this way, try it this way." And the cast, because they're so comfortable in their characters, they would try it different ways.
Director Kirk Jones shares why My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 will appeal to audiences...
Kirk Jones: I think everyone at this table is a huge fan of making movies which make people feel good, make them laugh, make them cry again. And the dark stuff is out there, and we all enjoy watching that now and again, but there's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't invest our time in making movies which makes people feel good and touch on human subjects, which is what Nia does when she comments on families. And that's what everyone wants to see, as well as all the other stuff.
If you are as big a fan of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" as my family, then don't miss the sequel when it premieres in theaters nationwide on March 25! Follow all the excitement on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MyBigFatGreekWeddingMovie, @MyBigFatGreekWeddingMovie, Instagram (@MBFGreekWedding), and Twitter (@MBFGreekWedding).