My Big Fat Greek Wedding
“Success comes in all shapes and sizes and ages. I have three different sizes of clothes in my closet and that to me is the key to happiness. I love my body!” Nia Vardalos
Greek-Canadian-American actress, screenwriter, producer and director Nia Vardalos is famous for starring and writing the successful romantic comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002). She took home a Discover Screenwriting Award from the American Screenwriters Association and nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America Awards for her effort on the film. Starting out acting on stage in Canada, Vardalos first gained notice as a member of Toronto's Second City and then the Chicago Second City comedy troupe before branching out to screen acting in 1994. She attracted public attention with her one woman show “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2000), which eventually led to the making of the triumphant big screen version. Following her huge break with the film, Vardalos wrote and starred in “Connie and Carla” (2004), starred in “My Life in Ruins” (2009) and directed, wrote and starred in “I Hate Valentine's Day” (2009).
Vardalos is married to fellow former Second City member actor and comedian Ian Gomez. They have an adoptive daughter. The couple has acted together in several projects.
Childhood and Family:
Born Antonia Eugenia Vardalos on September 24, 1962, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Nia Vardalos is the daughter of Greek Canadian parents Gus Vardalos, a land developer, and Doreen Vardalos, a bookkeeper and housewife. She was named after her grandmothers Eugenia and Antonia. Raised in an offbeat and eccentric family, she grew up an extrovert and was encouraged to develop her creativity. She won a scholarship to Ryerson University's School Of Acting in Toronto in 1986 thanks to her experience with a local theater called Rainbow Stage. She later joined Toronto's Second City theater troupe.
Nia married actor and comedian Ian Gomez (born on December 27, 1964) on September 5, 1993, in St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Winnipeg. Gomez, who is Puerto Rican and Russian Jewish, converted to the Greek Orthodox religion prior to their marriage. The couple first met in Chicago where they were performers at Chicago's Second City group. They moved to Los Angeles in 1995 to further their career. Nia became an U.S. citizen on April 20, 1999. She and her husband adopted a little girl in 2008.
I Hate Valentine's Day
Nia Vardalos got her start at the local theater company Rainbow Stage before winning a scholarship to study drama professionally at Ryerson University's School Of Acting. Her career with Toronto's renowned Second City improvisational comedy theater troupe began in 1988 when she landed a job at the company's box office. She, however, did not join the troupe as a performer until she replaced a sick actress who was unable to perform in a show. The show was a success and by 1990 Vardalos had joined the Second City theater group in Chicago. In 1994, she was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for her performance in “Whitewater for Chocolate,” opposite Jenna Jolovitz, Jimmy Doyle and Scott Adsit. Also that year, she made her television debut with a guest appearance in “Missing Persons,” alongside her husband, who played Pete.
After moving to Los Angeles, Vardalos made her film acting debut as Sheila in “No Experience Necessary” (1996), a 25 minute comedy helmed and co-written by Eric Schlecht. She also landed guest roles in the TV shows “High Incident” and “Common Law.” The following year, she was featured as Grace Almada in an episode of “The Drew Carey Show,” where her husband was a recurring player, and portrayed the supporting role of Iris in the independent comedy “Men Seeking Women,” by filmmaker Jim Milio. Costars of the film included Will Ferrell, Lisa Wilcox and Anthony Palermo.
Vardalos' first regular gig arrived when she was hired to voice Domino, a Ford Mustang, on “Team Knight Rider” (1997-1998), a syndicated television spin-off series of the “Knight Rider” franchise. The show, however, was canceled after one season due to poor ratings. She then acted with Dave Sheridan, Bill Chott and Charlie Hartsock in the direct to video “Short Cinema” (1998) and was reunited with her husband in the romantic film “Meet Prince Charming” (1999), which starred Tia Carrere and David Charvet. During 1998-1999, she also appeared in episodes of “Boy Meets World” (2 episodes), “It's Like, You Know...” (1 episode) and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” (1 episode).
Entering the new millennium, Vardalos appeared as a lawyer in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” called “Interior Decorator.” It was also during this period that she created the one woman stage play “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which she adapted from her friends’ recollection of humorous stories about her family and wedding. The show was staged in many theaters in Los Angeles and became a hit. It eventually caught the eye of actress and producer Rita Wilson, who recommended the play to her husband Tom Hanks. After Hanks saw it, the couple decided to make the feature film version of the play.
Also titled “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the movie adaptation was released in the U.S. on April 19, 2002, with Vardalos starring as Fotoula Portokalos. The critical reception to the film was primarily positive and the movie emerged as a sleeper hit. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” grossed over $241 million in the domestic market, making it the fifth highest grossing movie of 2002 and the most successful romantic comedy film in history. It eventually collected over $368 million worldwide, well surpassing its budget of $5 million. Vardalos was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Writing, Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. The film also brought her a Discover Screenwriting Award at the 2003 American Screenwriters Association, a WAFCA Award for Best Screenplay, a Canadian Comedy Award for Film - Pretty Funny Female Performance (also a nomination for Film - Pretty Funny Writing), an MTV Movie nomination for Breakthrough Female Performance, an Online Film Critics Society nomination for Best Breakthrough Performance, a Phoenix Film Critics Society for Best Newcomer (also a nomination for Best Screenplay - Original), and a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture, to name a few. Following the huge success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Vardalos created the continuation television series “My Big Fat Greek Life” with the actress starring as Nia Miller, opposite Steven Eckholdt as Thomas Miller. Debuting on CBS on February 24, 2003, the show, however, was canceled after 7 episodes due to negative reviews. Vardalos also served as an executive producer with the Hanks couple.
Returning to the big screen, Vardalos wrote and starred as Connie in the Michael Lembeck directed comedy “Connie and Carla” (2004), opposite Toni Collette as Carla. The film, which Vardalos executive produced, was a flop at the box office. After the disappointment, Vardalos disappeared from the public eye and did not resume her acting career until 2008 when she played the recurring role of Jo in the comedy series “My Boys.” She appeared in the episodes “Spit Take,” “Take My Work Wife...,” and “Please and Dudes Being Dudes.” The following year, she starred with Richard Dreyfuss in the comedy film “My Life in Ruins,” helmed by Donald Petrie and written by Mike Reiss, and appeared in an episode of “Drop Dead Diva.”
It was also in 2009 that Vardalos made her debut as a director, writer and actor with “I Hate Valentine's Day,” a romantic comedy that reunited her with “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” costar John Corbett. The film earned unfavorable reviews from critics but was a minor commercial success.
Recently, in 2010, Vardalos appeared as Eileen in the pilot episode of the comedy series “The Good Guys,” which starred Tom Hanks' son Colin Hanks. She will play a supporting role in the upcoming movie “Larry Crowne” (2011), starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. She also co-wrote the script with Tom Hanks.
American Screenwriters Association: Discover Screenwriting Award, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” 2003
Canadian Comedy: Film - Pretty Funny Female Performance, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” 2003
Independent Spirit: Best Debut Performance, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” 2003
Phoenix Film Critics Society (PFCS): Best Newcomer, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” 2003
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA): Best Screenplay, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” 2002