CULTURE

The romcom champion returns

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – 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. 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 Vardalos a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the Oscars – allowed Vardalos to take her time deciding her next career move. Although she starred in a short-lived television spin-off of «My BFG Wedding,» Vardalos has been largely professionally inactive since 2002, preferring to focus on starting a family before relaunching her career with «My Life in Ruins.» Her new film, which will be released in North America on Friday but has already opened at Greek theaters, sees her play a Greek-American history professor who returns to Greece to work as a tour guide in Athens. Vardalos said the script for the film, which includes several scenes shot on 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 time that I had found something where I wanted to be on camera 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 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 added. 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,» Vardalos said. «And so it happened and it’s 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 to have fun and tell fun stories.» Vardalos, who did not write «My Life in Ruins,» continues to pen screenplays. But she says she has resisted the temptation to try and 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. «I think if you create with a financial goal in mind, artistically you are dead. It’s best to tell fun stories and let the audience decide.» However Vardalos makes no apologies for the fact that «My Life in Ruins» and another upcoming film, «I Hate Valentine’s Day,» which she wrote, directed and stars in, are both romantic comedies, like «My BFG Wedding.» «I think that reviewers and the industry think that romance is dead,» Vardalos said. «I think the audience wants it and needs it. I know I do. «As I keep saying, as the average person, I like to escape into a movie. I like movies like ‘Terminator’ and ‘Star Trek’ as well.»