- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

LOS ANGELES | Seven years after being catapulted to fame and fortune with her hit comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Nia Vardalos makes a long-awaited return to the big screen this month with another film that takes the Canadian-born actress back to her ancestral roots.

Miss Vardalos, 46, became an overnight success in 2002 when the romantic comedy she wrote and starred in went on to become a monster hit, earning more than $350 million worldwide after being made for only $5 million.

The success of the film, which also earned Miss Vardalos a best original screenplay nomination at the Oscars, allowed her to take her time deciding on a next career move.

Although she starred in a short-lived television spinoff of “Greek Wedding,” Miss Vardalos has been largely inactive since 2002, preferring to focus on starting a family before relaunching her career with “My Life in Ruins.”

Her new film, which goes on release in North America on Friday, sees her play a Greek-American history professor who returns to Greece to work as a tour guide in Athens.

Miss Vardalos said the script for the film, which includes several scenes shot at the Acropolis and other historic sites, had fired her enthusiasm after years out of the spotlight as she attempted to start a family.

“When we got the permission to shoot this film, it was so exciting and it was the first that I had found something where I wanted to be on camera in for a long time,” she told reporters in Beverly Hills.

“In 2004, I had come to the end of a 10-year infertility battle, and I just chose to privately deal with it, so I stepped back out of acting,” said Miss Vardalos, who recently adopted a 3-year-old girl with her husband.

“I was really happy to be offered a nice clean script that celebrates Greece and is a love letter to Greece,” she adds.

Miss Vardalos says that despite the commercial success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” her business relationships with her producers, who include actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, have not changed.

“The good news is that you strive for what happened with my first movie for your whole life,” Miss Vardalos said. “And so it happened and its like, ‘Oh that’s over, the rest is gravy.’

“The greater news is that my producers are the same producers. They treated me like gold before ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ made a dime. And they don’t expect anything from me, except let’s have fun and let’s tell fun stories.”

Miss Vardalos, who did not write “My Life in Ruins,” continues to write screenplays.

But she said she has resisted the temptation to try to regurgitate the formula from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in an attempt to score another commercial bull’s-eye.

“I write little movies, and then the rest is up to the audience,” she said. “It’s the audience that made ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ a success.

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