Nia Vardalos and cirector Donald Petrie © Fox Searchlight

For the past 20 years, since he launched Julia Roberts’s career in Mystic Pizza, director Donald Petrie has loved spotlighting women, such as Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality and Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

In My Life in Ruins it’s Nia Vardalos’ time to shine as an American tour guide who, through a band of mismatched tourists on her bus in Greece, discovers a new meaning to life.

Nia said she thought the time was right for a film that does have an optimistic, sentimental outlook, do you agree?

Nia Vardalos and cirector Donald Petrie © Fox Searchlight

I think that it’s an unlucky accident that the world is going through what the world is going through now, and that we need this kind of a story just so we can feel good for a few hours among everything that is going on in the country and in the world economically. But when I look at scripts, I look for the character and what they’re going through and what I think is going to be relatable to audiences. For whatever reason, since Mystic Pizza 20 years ago, female characters have been something that’s very attractive to me. I guess I’m a feminist at heart. In this film I’m spotlighting the people who find themselves at some point in their life where they’re forty, they don’t feel like they’ve gotten far success-wise or love-wise, they’ve lost their lease on life, or in this case their spirit. In this journey that Georgia takes, she finds it again, helped by this odd groug of tourists.

Did you shoot this film for an American audience or a European audience?

Nia Vardalos leading her international tour group © Fox Searchlight

When the original script was written it was a group of Americans on this tour bus with Nia. We changed that so it was truly international, and that way I could feel like I was insulting everyone equally, from the uptight Brits to the Australians who you can’t understand, all the various stereotypes. And yet the stereotypes is how Georgia sees these people, she’s lumped them into these groups and once she gets passed that and realizes these people are people, she starts to loosen up and realizes that it’s she that has been making her life miserable.

Can you talk a little about Nia Vardalos?

What’s amazing about Nia is here is a woman of a certain age in Hollywood that does what Nike says, ‘Just do it.’ She doesn’t wait for an offer, she doesn’t wait for a script to come to her, she goes out and finds it and gets it done. That’s kind of amazing. If it doesn’t exist, damn it, I’ll write it. I’m so impressed with Nia and how she does that. Even though she had one of the hugest hits on the planet with My Big Fat Greek Wedding, her career has still been a struggle after that, people aren’t pouring out to give her leads opposite major hunk stars, so she’s having to make her career herself, and has done a great job of it.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.