Nia finds inspiration for My Big Fat Greek Wedding sequel
ADOPTING her daughter Ilaria inspired Nia Vardalos to write the sequel to her hit independent film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The actress and writer was unsure she'd ever pen a sequel to the hit romantic comedy about Toula, a Greek woman who struggled to get her large, boisterous family to accept her non-Greek love Ian (John Corbett).
But she found the perfect inspiration while touring with the book she wrote about her lengthy journey to motherhood.
"On my book tour I saw myself reflected back at me in that the people standing in line were my age with a child on one side and aging parents on the other," she tells Weekend.
"I realised I'm part of the sandwich generation.
"The only way to write about something is to go through it, which is why I decided it was okay to go deeper with this script. Fifteen years ago I would have not wanted to show 'and then what happens' but now that I've lived it I felt really comfortable putting it into a screenplay."
Picking up 14 years after the events of the first film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 follows Toula as she balances caring for her aging parents with her relationship rut with husband Ian and her overwhelming desire to smother their now teenage daughter Paris.
"It's an amplified version of how I felt when I first became a mother," Vardalos says.
"I so happily, wholeheartedly threw myself into the parenting experience.
"Then one day I looked into the mirror and went 'oh my God what is happening?' I'd forgotten about myself… that's when I realised I have really turned into my own mother, who was always way too close."
As if by fate, young actress Elena Kampouris came to the attention of Vardalos and her fellow producers.
"The financiers said maybe we could cast a named person in the role but the producer and I looked at each other and said 'absolutely not'. We wanted to find somebody just like I was cast in the first movie.
"Then Elena fell on our doorstep. She is a typical New Jersey teenager outside of the Hollywood system. She put herself on tape in her parents' house and through their Greek connections they got the tape to us."
The film reunites the entire main cast of the first film, a miracle given the amount of time that has passed.
"We'd only seen each other in groups of two or three, so when the entire cast saw each other at the first table read it was a really emotional day," Vardalos says.
"We hadn't been in the same room for 15 years; it was like a family reunion. So many things have happened. Joey (Fatone) and I are parents now; we've had losses and divorces. We are a typical family."
As its name suggests, the film features another wedding.
"My book tour was followed quickly by my parents living with us for a month," she says. "Watching my parents' dynamic - they are that familiar with each other they would argue over whether a peach is ripe for a full seven minutes - made me ask the question if people weren't married to each other for so long would they choose to be?"
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 opens nationally on Thursday.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Stars: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, John Stamos, Rita Wilson, Andrea Martin, Michael Constantine.
Director: Kirk Jones
Reviewer's last word: This long-awaited sequel is like a big, warm hug from a friend you haven't seen in years.
Star profile: Elena Kampouris
Quirky fact: At just 17 she has already starred in two movies with Adam Sandler: Men Women & Children and The Cobbler.
Best known for: Men, Women & Children, American Odyssey, Labor Day.
If you like this movie you'll like these: My Life in Ruins, Bridget Jones's Baby, I Hate Valentine's Day.
Quote: "Because of social media and the toll it's taking, (we've) become almost an obsessive generation. We can all check our feed and our accounts and our notifications constantly. We've become almost reliant on it."