My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: Why It Took a Decade for the Sequel

The global blockbuster that My Big Fat Greek Wedding became was not actually based on writer-performer Nia Vardalos’ solo show.  In fact, Vardalos wrote the screenplay first but didn’t have representation at the time and couldn’t get her script read.

In an effort to secure an agent, she mounted the screenplay material on stage as a solo show.  Actress Rita Wilson saw the play and liked it so much that she asked her husband, Tom Hanks, and his Playtone partner, Gary Goetzman, to see it.

The rest is history.

Not only would My Big Fat Greek Wedding become the most successful romantic comedy of all time—earning more than $245 million at the U.S. box office—it accumulated fans worldwide who have shared it with each member of their family and can quote every line of the film.  Resonating with young and old moviegoers alike, it has become a touchstone in the genre.

Despite the success, a sequel wasn’t an immediate priority for Vardalos.  Over the course of the first film’s many successes, Vardalos was privately struggling to become a parent.  There was, however, joy to come.  In April 2013, she went public in her New York Times bestseller “Instant Mom,” chronicling how she and her husband, Ian Gomez, met and adopted their three-year-old daughter via foster care, with only 14 hours’ notice.

Since she had waited a decade to become a parent, Vardalos threw herself into every aspect of motherhood.  She explains: “I tried to do it all—from finely chopping GMO-free vegetables for daily homemade soups to making handmade costumes.”

On the first day of her daughter’s kindergarten, Vardalos recalls, “I was crying so hard at the idea of my daughter starting school.  Another mom, I think in an effort to calm me, said: ‘In 13 years, they’ll go off to college and move away from home.’”

It was then and there the writer-performer got the idea for the sequel.  Vardalos laughs: “I was struck by such panic and fear at the thought of my daughter leaving me that I realized I had morphed into my own overbearing, bordering-on-suffocating, Greek parents.”

Vardalos immediately started writing, imagining what the Portokalos and Millers’ family life was like 10 years later.  While still in love, she saw Toula and Ian as grappling with what all married couples raising a teenager struggle to have: balance between time with their child and time with each other.  Part of the sandwich generation, Toula is also dealing with aging parents, the irrepressible Maria and cantankerous Gus, not to mention the endless needs of other cousins and friends.

Vardalos wrote the screenplay over a four year period.  She remarks: “I wanted to show that the pressure that accompanies the female-parenting experience is tremendous and self-defeating.  I know I can’t be volunteering at my daughter’s school, and at work, and have time for my family and my parents.  I can’t be everywhere, and yet I keep trying.”

When news of the sequel broke, fans were ecstatic.  In her characteristically wry fashion, Vardalos wrote on Twitter: “Now that I’m experiencing motherhood I feel ready to write this next chapter.  A few folks will claim I ran out of money or wanted to kiss John Corbett again.  One of these things is true.”

Vardalos notes that her goal was to write an ensemble story: “I am very pro-woman without being anti-man.  So yes, the men are well served in the story but because of the archaic gender gap for females in my industry, my additional objective is always to write substantial roles for the women.”

The story jumps forward 10 years since the last moment we saw the Portokalos family.  Toula and Ian have been married a long time and, as is typical, their relationship has lost some of its spark.  Like most mothers of teens, Toula is at odds with her daughter and trying to find time for herself and her relationship with her husband.

Just like Toula is to her parents, Paris is everything to Toula and Ian.  They wonder if they have to let the 17-year-old grow up and make her own choices, and not smother her with every family tradition and their own expectations of who she should be.  Still, much like Toula, Paris is not content to be relegated to everyone’s thoughts of what constitutes a good Greek girl.  She is grappling with her family’s expectations of her…and the dreams she has for herself.

Toula’s parents, Gus and Maria, are now proud grandparents and asking themselves the same question that every couple faces: Where did the romance go?  Maria hopes to find that spark again for her relationship.  And, yes, to Gus, Windex still cures everything.

Now, Ian and Toula are struggling with some of the same issues her parents faced in the first film: How do you love and still let go?

The fact that three generations of family members are struggling with where they fit into their world brings us to an interesting fact about Vardalos’ deeply personal stories, and why her writing and the Portokalos family resonates with moviegoers.  The writer explains her logic: “I don’t necessarily like to write a villain, because I think the conflict is usually within the internal struggle of a family, so it’s common in all of them.  There isn’t a terrible boss or a horrible situation.  It is just that this is a family problem, which needs to be solved.  And getting through something difficult with someone is what brings us closer.”


Director Kirk Jones

Once Vardalos delivered the sequel’s screenplay, the team met with director Kirk Jones, who has made his career out of exploring familial relationships in such films as Nanny McPhee and Waking Ned Devine.

The father of three explains his interest in this type of entertainment: “Everyone who goes into the theater has had an experience with family.  Our film isn’t just about Greek communities, it’s about all families—brothers and sisters, parents and children.  Everyone sees their own family onscreen.”

For his part, Jones readily agreed to be a part of the production.  He shares: “The idea of a sequel was pitched to me before I saw the script.  I revisited the original movie and wrote a list of things that I would really like to see in a sequel.  About two weeks after that I received the script, and I can genuinely say that I ticked off every single thing that I wanted.  In fact, from Ian and Toula struggling to find balance in their relationship at this stage to more about Gus and Maria, Nia had put it all in there.”

Jones explains that his process was one of honoring the material: “This time out, the film is about three generations of relationships, and it’s saying that if you enter into a relationship, you can never take it for granted.  Remember, wherever there is drama, there is comedy as well.”

Vardalos enjoyed watching the British director take on the boisterous, raucous cast: “Kirk had no idea what he was about to get into by walking into a gaggle of Greeks, Italian and Jewish people who never shut up.  No one heard him say anything because we all talk.  A lot.”