My Big Fat Greek Wedding” starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Michael Constantine and Laine Kazan and based on Vardalos’ one-woman play, opened in U.S. theaters on April 19, 2002.
It was co-produced by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks.
Despite not reaching No. 1 at the box office, it earned over $240 million in North America making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all-time.
It spawned the short-lived CBS sitcom “My Big Fat Greek Life” (also starring Vardalos) in 2003.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics and, at the 75th Academy Awards, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
The film spawned a franchise, which inspired the short-lived 2003 TV series My Big Fat Greek Life and a film sequel titled My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, was released on March 25, 2016.
In October 2021, Vardalos confirmed that the script for the second sequel has been completed that would involve another Greek wedding.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding started as a one-woman play written by and starring Vardalos, performed for six weeks at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Los Angeles in the summer of 1997. Vardalos later jokingly stated that she only wrote the play “to get a better agent.”
The play was based on Vardalos’s own family in Winnipeg in Canada and on her experience marrying a non-Greek man (actor Ian Gomez).
The play was popular, and was sold out for much of its run, in part due to Vardalos’s marketing it across Greek Orthodox churches in the area.
A number of Hollywood executives and celebrities saw it, including actress Rita Wilson, who is herself of Greek origin; Wilson convinced her husband, actor Tom Hanks, to see it as well.
Vardalos began meeting various executives about making a film version of the play and began writing a screenplay as well.
However, the meetings proved fruitless because the executives insisted on making changes that they felt would make the film more marketable, which Vardalos objected to: these included changing the plot, getting a known actress in the lead role (Marisa Tomei was one name mentioned), and changing the family’s ethnicity to Hispanic.
Two months after the play’s initial run ended, Hanks’s production company, Playtone, contacted Vardalos about producing a film based on her vision for it; they also agreed to remount the play in early 1998, this time at LA’s Globe Theatre.
Hanks later said that casting Vardalos in the lead role “brings a huge amount of integrity to the piece, because it’s Nia’s version of her own life and her own experience. I think that shows through on the screen and people recognise it.”
In 2000, while in Toronto doing pre-production for the film, Vardalos and Playtone producer Gary Goetzman overheard actor John Corbett (who was in town shooting the film Serendipity) at a bar, telling a friend of his about having read the script for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and being upset that he could not make the auditions.
Vardalos and Goetzman approached Corbett and offered him the part of Ian Miller on the spot, which he accepted.
Parts of the film were shot in Greektown, Toronto.
Despite being based on life in the Greek community of Winnipeg, the film was set in Chicago and shot in both Toronto and Chicago.
Toronto’s Ryerson University and Greektown neighbourhood feature prominently in the film. The home used to depict Gus and Maria Portokalos’s residence (as well as the home bought next door at the end of the film for Toula and Ian) is located on Glenwood Crescent just off O’Connor Drive in the Toronto suburb of East York.
The real home representing the Portokalos’ residence actually has most of the external ornamentation that was shown in the film. Also, some minor parts of the movie were shot at Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating 76% based on 129 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10.
The site’s critical consensus reads, “Though it sometimes feels like a television sitcom, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is good-hearted, lovable, and delightfully eccentric, with a sharp script and lead performance from Nia Vardalos.”
On Metacritic, which assigns a rating based on reviews, the film has an average score of 62 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating “generally favourable reviews.”