Twenty years ago a little film called My Big Fat Greek Wedding blew everyone away. It really was a small production: no A-listers were attached despite the producers’ best efforts, and it only got made thanks to a huge stroke of luck. Recently, Nia Vardalos — one of the many people who had their lives changed by the film’s success — revealed the shocking truth behind getting the movie made.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding was groundbreaking in many ways. It was a rom-com, but it didn’t use many of the rom-com tropes traditional at the time. The main conflict in the movie was between Toula, the main character played by Vardalos, and her overbearing Greek family, stunned when she she announces her plans to marry a non-Greek.
Yet that simple story turned out to appeal to millions of people the whole world over. Perhaps not everyone knew the exact context of the jokes about Greek culture… but they had similar jokes in their own culture. And the central core of the story was deeply relatable. Everyone could find something for themselves in it.
Not even the people who distributed the movie expected it to become such a massive hit, especially since 2002 was the release year for Spider-Man, a Star Wars movie, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Yet, amazingly for such an underdog, it ended up being the fifth-highest-grossing film of the year.
But how did a group of unknowns manage to pull off such an incredible feat? When the film’s 20th anniversary rolled around in 2022, Nia Vardalos spoke to website The Ringer about the making of the film and the Hollywood hardships she had experienced trying to get it off the ground.