Nia Vardalos © Fox Searchlight

Nia Vardalos © Fox Searchlight

Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of the highest-grossing independent films in history, actually gets to go to Greece in her new movie.

She plays Georgia, an American tour guide in Greece who steers an eclectic group of mismatched tourists through the ancient monuments. Hoping to find an eager audience for her encyclopedic knowledge, she discovers that the travelers are more interested in buying souvenirs.

But in the end, they teach her more about life than she could ever imagine.

How would you describe this movie?

It’s a very escapist movie, it’s very loving. Mike Reiss wrote the script and I think that he really captured this essence in Greece to just have fun. The audience laughs, and we’re not saying this is some form of deep art, it’s an escapist summer movie, which is why they’re releasing it in the summer.

What was it like shooting in Greece?

Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss © Fox Searchlight

I don’t get offered a lot of things that I didn’t write, and the fact that is actually took place in Greece was for me a huge bonus. I was being very private about this, but when I was doing press in New York this story came out so I’m just going to be honest about what happened. At the end of Connie and Carla in 2004 I came to the end of a 10-year infertility battle, and I just had to grieve. So I stepped away from being on camera and dealt with it very quietly, and I’m very happy I did it because it gave me a perspective, so what I layered into this script about a woman losing her mojo is exactly what happened to me, and there’s a freedom in talking about it.

Have you been to Greece before?

Nia Vardalos, Alexis Georgoulis © Fox Searchlight

Several times, and I loved shooting in Greece and that’s the reason I wanted to do this movie, it’s the reason that lured me back on camera, I wanted so badly to be in it after nudging the script a bit, adding a little Greek stuff, adding a little more romance, I just figured, I think I want to play this role. And it was a joyous experience to get permission to shoot at those ancient sites. It’s impossible what happened to us, but then again what happened with my first movie was impossible, so I just accepted that you have a plan and God has a plan, and your plan doesn’t count.

When you got permission to shoot at the famous ruins, did you ever worry that something would go wrong?

As soon as we got permission I had a recurring nightmare of a column falling over with me on top of it going, ‘Noooooo.’ It was a gift that I asked for and then when they handed it to me I was afraid to unwrap it. I was worried when we were there. When the plane took off and I looked out the window and I could see the Acropolis, I was like, ‘Okay, we did it!’

Judy Sloane

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