YouTube
YouTube

15 Big Facts About My Big Fat Greek Wedding

YouTube
YouTube

In 2002, Joel Zwick's My Big Fat Greek Wedding became a worldwide phenomenon. Shot on a budget of $5 million, the Tom Hanks-produced movie went on to earn more than $368 million at the global box office. The film was written by its star, Nia Vardalos, who played Fotoula "Toula" Portokalos, a Greek-American who falls for non-Greek-American Ian Miller (John Corbett), much to the disapproval of her overbearing family. Here are some facts about the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all-time, on the 15th anniversary of its release.

1. IT BEGAN LIFE AS A STAGE SHOW IN LOS ANGELES.

In 1997, Second City alum Nia Vardalos wrote and performed a one-woman show about her Greek family. "I basically took every Greek wedding I’ve ever been to, including mine, and on a scale of one to 10, I turned it up to an 11," Vardalos said. Los Angeles' Hudson Theater over-sold the six-week run of the show after Vardalos sent flyers to every Greek church in Southern California. Rita Wilson, who is also Greek, attended one of the performances; she went backstage after the show and told Vardalos that it should be made into a movie. One week later, Wilson's husband, Tom Hanks, attended a performance.

2. WHEN TOM HANKS CALLED, NIA VARDALOS THOUGHT IT WAS A PRANK.

After Vardalos told her friends that Hanks had seen her show, one friend repeatedly called her pretending to be the Oscar-winning actor. When Hanks actually did call her (she was on her treadmill at the time), she assumed it was the same friend. Hanks assured her it was really him, "And then I heard Forrest Gump," Vardalos recalled.

3. DISNEY WANTED MARISA TOMEI TO STAR.

Before Hanks' call, several production companies expressed interest in purchasing the rights to Vardalos' project. One wanted to turn it into a story about a Hispanic family. Disney was interested in buying the story as is, but wanted Marisa Tomei to star in it. Hanks and his production company, Playtone, saw Vardalos playing herself.

4. IAN MILLER IS BASED ON ACTOR IAN GOMEZ.

Ian Gomez and Vardalos met while performing at Second City in Chicago in the early 1990s. Gomez, like Miller, wasn't Greek but had himself baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church and won over Vardalos' family. The couple married in 1993. Gomez played Ian Miller's best man, Mike, in the movie.

5. VARDALOS'S MOTHER CONTRIBUTED A LINE TO THE SCRIPT.

"[My mother] gave me a line for the movie the other day," Vardalos said before filming began. "I have the father in the movie say, 'I am the head of this house' and the scene as it exists now is that the mother turns to the daughter and gives a 'yeah, right' look heavenward. But my mother suggested I have the mother character reply, 'But the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.'"

Vardalos' father contributed some dialogue, too. He really did tell her once that she'd better get married because she was starting to look old.

6. VARDALOS WROTE THE ROLE OF AUNT VOULA WITH ANDREA MARTIN IN MIND.

Andrea Martin is of Armenian descent, but Vardalos had always wanted to work with the fellow Second City alum.

7. MICHAEL CONSTANTINE CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT TO PLAY VARDALOS'S FATHER, GUS, MUCH TO THE EXCITEMENT OF TOM HANKS.

When Michael Constantine (The Hustler) left the audition, Hanks slapped the table and exclaimed, “We’re done!”

8. JOHN CORBETT WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF IAN AT A HOTEL BAR.

John Corbett was in Toronto shooting Serendipity (2001), telling his friend over drinks about the funny script he had read. (Corbett tried to get a reading for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but his shooting schedule had not allowed it.) Hearing the actor talk about their movie, Vardalos and producer Gary Goetzman walked over and introduced themselves. Within 10 minutes, Goetzman offered Corbett the part of Ian Miller.

9. IT WAS PRIMARILY SHOT IN TORONTO.

Vardalos grew up in Winnipeg, but the movie was set in Chicago, and filmed in Toronto. Much of the Ontario city's large Greek population volunteered to be extras at the large wedding scenes. Some of Vardalos' relatives joined in as well. Toula and Ian actually tie the knot in Toronto's St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church.

10. VARDALOS GOT HER ALMA MATER INTO THE MIX.

Vardalos graduated from Toronto's Ryerson University. Ryerson portrayed Harry S. Truman College in the movie.

11. THE OPENING SCENE WAS SHOT LAST.

The scene where Gus and Toula drive to open the restaurant in the early morning was the last scene filmed. According to the DVD commentary, the sadness Vardalos and Constantine displayed on screen came from the sadness of most of the cast and crew having already wrapped.

12. IT BROKE RECORDS.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding made $241,438,208 in U.S. theaters, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in history, over $58 million ahead of What Women Want (2000). It's also the highest-grossing movie since at least 1982 to never be number one during any box office weekend. With a gross revenue (theater and home video sales) of approximately $369 million off of a $5 million production budget, it's also one of the most profitable movies ever made.

13. VARDALOS'S MOTHER KEPT HER HUMBLE.

"When I first did the movie and got a call telling me that never before had a film playing in so few theaters been seen by so many people, I hung up and told my mom 'Hey, I think something huge is happening with the movie,'" Vardalos told The Huffington Post in 2012. "She said, 'That’s so nice ... now, will you take the chicken out of the oven?'"

14. IT SPAWNED A SHORT-LIVED TV SHOW.

The CBS series My Big Fat Greek Life (2003) brought everyone back except for Corbett, who was busy starring in Lucky (2003). Only seven episodes of the small-screen version ever aired.

15. VARDALOS WASN'T READY TO WRITE THE SEQUEL UNTIL SHE BECAME A MOTHER.

Because she always wrote "from a personal place," Vardalos felt she couldn't pretend to know how to write about Paris, Toula and Ian's six-year-old daughter who appears at the end of the first film. But in 2009, Vardalos and Gomez adopted a daughter, Ilaria, which allowed her to reconsider the idea of a sequel. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was released in theaters on March 25, 2016.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Columbia Pictures
arrow
entertainment
10 Fun Facts About Can’t Hardly Wait
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

When the teen film Can’t Hardly Wait—which was named after the Replacements song of the same name—arrived in theaters on June 12, 1998, it grossed $25,605,015 on a $10 million budget. In the 20 years since, the movie has found an even larger audience through DVD and cable. The premise follows Preston Meyers (Empire Records’s Ethan Embry) trying to connect with his dream girl, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), all the while seeking advice from his best friend, Denise Fleming (a pre-Six Feet Under Lauren Ambrose).

Originally called The Party, most of the movie takes place during a rambunctious graduation party, featuring a before-they-were-famous cast, and Jenna Elfman as a stripper dressed as an angel. The movie culminates with Preston and Amanda sealing their romance and living happily ever after. Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the two would later team up for Josie and the Pussycats. Here are 10 fun-filled facts about the ’90s teen comedy.

1. THE PLOT WAS BASED ON LOGISTICS.

Can't Hardly Wait was Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s directorial debut, so they liked the idea of having a self-contained and low-budget story to direct. “It was all practical,” Elfont told TIME. “The idea of doing a movie set at a party came first, because it seemed like it would be really cheap to shoot a movie in one location. Then we thought, what hasn’t been done? Nobody’s really done a high-school movie in a while. So we kind of fell into it that way. It was kind of an accident.”

2. SEVERAL SCENES IN THE FILM WERE CHANGED TO AVOID AN R RATING.

A year before the raunchy American Pie was released and jumpstarted R-rated teen films, Can’t Hardly Wait got watered down to get a PG-13 rating. Sony had issues with the underage drinking, and the fact there was no parental supervision at the party. “Well, who would have a high school party and have your parents there?!” Hewitt asked the Los Angeles Times. Seth Green, who played the virginal Kenny Fisher in the movie, gave a rundown of deleted or altered scenes, to Vulture.

“When [Jennifer] Love [Hewitt] first walks into the party, there’s a kid behind her holding a balloon and covering his mouth,” he said. “That used to be a beer bong, but the most expensive CG in the movie was [used] to make it [look] like that kid was smiling and holding a balloon. And then, there’s a scene where Charlie [Korsmo] and Peter [Facinelli] are at the piano. They toast, and then they cut to a wide shot where neither of them are drinking and then cut back to a close-up of them putting their glasses down because you can’t show the kids drinking.”

3. ETHAN EMBRY FORCED HIS WAY INTO PLAYING THE LEAD.

“It had been a while that I had the opportunity to play the ‘guy that gets the girl,’” Embry told VH1. “I had done those roles when I was a lot younger and this was the first time that someone would see me as a lead.” After Embry auditioned for the movie, he got offered the William Lichter part, which eventually went to Charlie Korsmo. But Embry turned the supporting part down. “I wanted to play the guy who gets the girl. That was sort of the driving thing.”

4. MELISSA JOAN HART AND JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT GOT “HIGH” ON B12 VITAMINS.

Hart purposefully chose the small role of the manic Yearbook Girl, as she was working full-time on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and couldn’t fit in a bigger part. While filming a night scene with Hewitt, Hart took B12 vitamins to stay energized, and offered them to a skeptical Hewitt, who thought the vitamins were drugs. “I finally convinced her it’s a vitamin, you can do it,” Hart told TV Guide. “So we took B12 vitamins, and then there was an owl in the tree. [Hewitt] was like, ‘See I’m high now, because there’s not really an owl in the tree.’ We were having these silly night giggles and just attributing it to B12 vitamins.”

5. JASON SEGEL HAD A CAMEO.

The actor was a year away from starring on Freaks and Geeks and seven from How I Met Your Mother when he signed on to play Watermelon Guy. Kaplan and Elfont recognized his talent immediately. “We knew how funny Jason was but there wasn’t a bigger part for him, so we were, like, let’s cast him as this watermelon guy,” Elfont told TIME.

Many other actors either got their start in the movie or became more famous as a result, including Lauren Ambrose and Freddy Rodriguez (both from Six Feet Under), Clea DuVall, Selma Blair, and Sean Patrick Thomas. “Everyone in that age range came in to read because there were no other jobs,” Kaplan told TIME. “That whole crop of people who turned out to be so talented and do so well for themselves afterward were in our movie literally, I think, because there was nothing else for them to do.”

6. EMBRY DOESN’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE SHOOT.

Embry admitted to VH1 to being “the world’s biggest stoner” while making the film. “Nothing sticks out because I was so stoned the entire time,” he said. He also confessed, “I haven’t seen the movie all the way through ... I never read the script.”

One thing he did remember, though, was the only scene he filmed with Hewitt, at the end of the movie. Before their characters kissed at the train station, Hewitt—knowing he smoked—had a basket of breath mints sent to Embry’s trailer. “And there was a basket of breath mints, you know? Like real pretty,” he said. “Like almost you give somebody flowers or a fruit basket but she gave me 50 breath mints. And it’s all different types. It was all very sweet. And that always makes me laugh thinking of that. Aww, Jennifer wanted me to smell good.” Embry took advantage of the gift and popped some breath mints into his mouth before filming. “They were rather nice cottonmouth alleviators,” he said during a Reddit AMA.

7. EMBRY DOESN’T KNOW—OR CARE—WHAT HIS CHARACTER'S LETTER SAID.

Early on at the party, Amanda finds and reads Preston’s letter and spends the rest of the film trying to find him. It must’ve been a powerful letter, because it finally brings them together at the end. “It was a prop! It was an envelope,” he told VH1. “I think I remember the directors asking me if I knew what was in there. It was a prop. It doesn’t matter. Like I know what’s in there? It’s called acting.”

8. THE CAST WOULD LOVE TO DO A SEQUEL.

In 2015, some of the cast reunited at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a screening of the film. Hewitt tweeted: “Can’t Hardly Wait reunion movie anyone? Let’s get them to make it!” In a 2013 interview with VH1, Embry was tepid about a sequel. “Maybe if they paid me more than last time,” he said about a second one. “[He and Amanda] would have to not be together anymore. Amanda and him had a horrible breakup and there were kids involved. He drinks himself silly over a typewriter. I’d make that sequel.” But in a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post, Embry changed his tune. “Of course I would be thrilled to work with any of the players involved again,” he said. “If all the stars aligned, I would be happy to entertain that possibility.”

Peter Facinelli, who played Amanda’s ex-boyfriend Mike Dexter, told IFC his thoughts on a sequel. “You know how the whole movie takes place at the high school party? We could have the whole movie take place at the reunion. I thought it’d be a fun movie.”

9. PETER FACINELLI THINKS MIKE DEXTER TURNED INTO A LOSER.

If a sequel did occur, Facinelli has an idea about what happened to Mike. “Now he’s basically the loser,” he told IFC. “The nerd was the loser in the first movie. Now he’s like the loser and then he kind of climbs back and gets back on his horse. And the nerdy kid is now the Bill Gates who is kind of like the Mike Dexter, bossing everyone around. I think [Dexter’s] just literally a loser. He’s filled with self-doubt and he would basically rise to self-confidence again and come back on top.”

10. EMBRY THINKS PRESTON AND AMANDA ENDED UP WITH WEIRD JOBS.

VH1 asked Embry where he thinks the characters would be today, and he said: “She’s j*rking off dudes in Vancouver, and he’s making horror movies in upstate New York.”

Elfont took a more serious approach to the question, for TIME. “[The on-screen text at the end of the movie] says they’re still together,” Elfont said. “Who am I to argue?”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Saeed Adyani, Netflix
arrow
entertainment
11 Great Moments of Foreshadowing in Arrested Development
Saeed Adyani, Netflix
Saeed Adyani, Netflix

Since first airing on Fox in 2003, Arrested Development has established itself as a paragon of depth in television comedy. Fans of the show have spent years digging out jokes buried in the background, beneath the narration, within the soundtrack, and everywhere in between.

To celebrate the show's return to Netflix for an all-new fifth season, here's a look at several great examples of foreshadowing hidden within the Bluth family's exploits.

1. HOLD ON, SURELY FÜNKE!

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 1, Episode 14: Two episodes before we are first introduced to Maeby’s sickly alter ego, “Surely,” posters wishing her a speedy recovery are visible on the walls of the high school. Surely, despite suffering from “BS,” reoccurs throughout the rest of the show’s original run.

2. BUSTER IS "ALL-RIGHT"

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

This one is well documented around the internet, but the sheer amount that the show foreshadows Buster’s life-changing encounter with a certain yellow-bow-tie-wearing seal is impressive.

Season 1, Episode 20: Buster says, "This party is going to be off the hook!"

Season 2, Episode 1: A news broadcast can be heard in the background mentioning a seal attack. John Beard says, “Meet one surprised bather, coming up.” The camera immediately shows Buster.

Season 2, Episode 3: Buster, upon seeing his lost hand-shaped chair, says, “Wow, I never thought I’d miss a hand so much.”

Season 2, Episode 6: There is a portion bitten out of the banana stand sign as it is pulled out of the bay; the bite pattern is consistent with a seal. Buster wins a toy seal from the claw machine. When he returns home, the narrator mentions that, “Buster had gotten hooked playing”.

Season 2, Episode 11: A seal can be seen in the background during Buster and Lucille’s beach photo shoot. Later, George Sr. says, “What if I never get a chance to reach out and touch that hand of his again?”

As Buster sits on a bench near the beach, his position crops the words on the back of the bench to say, “ARM OFF.”

Season 2, Episode 12: When George Sr. visits the car dealership, an inflatable man in the background is missing the arm that Buster will soon lose. Also, Gob, while releasing the infamous seal into the wild, says, “You’re not going to be hand-fed anymore!"

Buster deals with the loss of his hand for the rest of the show, even after being given a much larger one. It must be difficult becoming a monster.

3. THE IRAQ CONNECTION

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Even in its first season, Arrested Development chose to reward devout fans with callbacks and hints at overarching plot lines. Some prime examples are the subtle nods to the true nature of George Sr.’s trips overseas: illegally building homes in Iraq.

Season 1, Episode 5: George Sr. admits that he has “committed some light treason.”

Season 1, Episode 14: Michael notices that pictures of one of Saddam Hussein’s mansions look strikingly similar to their model home.

Season 1, Episode 16: George Sr.’s precious “cooler of evidence” is labeled “H. MADDAZ,” which is “SADDAM H.” spelled in mirror-reverse.

Season 1, Episode 22: Kitty mentions that the family has been building houses overseas and hiding it from the U.S. government. Michael, thinking she’s merely referring to tax evasion, dismisses the statement. Later in the episode, the truth comes to light after Michael sees a news report laying it all out for him.

The family building homes and frequently doing business in Iraq carries as a reoccurring theme for the rest of the show’s original three seasons.

4. CALLING DR. BLUMEN

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 2, Episode 1: You'll have to be paying close attention to notice this one: In the season two opener, Michael—on his way to Phoenix—makes a call to the family pretending to be a “Dr. Blumen.” Later in the episode, the above scenario happens for the first time.

5. GOB HAS MADE A HUGE TINY MISTAKE

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 3, Episode 1: Gob receives a letter from an organization attempting to reunite him with his son. After some confusion (including the narrator disagreeing with Gob’s statement that he doesn’t have a son), Gob finally realizes that he is the father of none other than Maeby’s longtime crush, Steve Holt(!). This comes as a big surprise to Gob, but the show has been hinting at this twist since season one.

In the 19th episode of season one, Gob accidentally mutters that he might be a father, a fact that he references again in the fifth episode of season two. The foreshadowing really kicks up later on in season two during George Michael’s election campaign against Steve; Gob reveals that he got a girl pregnant during high school and notes that Steve looks like a girl he dated. Michael also tells Gob that Steve is “basically a young you.” During the post-episode teaser, an investigator shows Steve a photo of his father (Gob), but the fact is dropped until the season three premiere in which Gob’s “huge tiny mistake” is finally revealed.

6. A THOROUGHLY POLITE DUSTUP

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 3, Episode 4: During season three, Buster puts himself into what doctors call a “light-to-no coma” in order to avoid testifying against his family. Soon, his nurse Julia Adelaide (played by Bronwen Masters) becomes infatuated with him. This romance is foreshadowed by a short scene from A Thoroughly Polite Dustup, a fictional 1941 British war film. Masters and Tony Hale, who sports a hilarious fake chin, mustache, and bandaged left hand (the one Buster lost), play the nurse and soldier in A Thoroughly Polite Dustup.

Eight episodes later, Buster and Nurse Adelaide reenact a portion of the scene (almost word-for-word) just after Buster drops his coma charade.

7. ANNYONG'S REVENGE

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 3, Episode 13: Lucille and George’s adopted Korean son, Annyong, starts off as what appears to be a pretty one-dimensional and purposefully annoying (get it?) character, but expands greatly during the final episode of season three when his revenge plot is finally revealed. This moment was foreshadowed way back in season two when his real name “Hello” is spray-painted on the side of the Bluth's destroyed frozen banana stand during episode six.

His plot is also briefly noted in the fifth episode of season three, when he is shown hiding inside Lucille's home in order to steal Bluth family secrets. The narrator describes him as a “mole,” a fact that is also foreshadowed by the mole on his shirt two episodes earlier.

8. MICHAEL'S "FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX"

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

When Arrested Development returned via Netflix in 2013, its knack for nuanced storytelling became all the more complicated with the new season's unorthodox time frame. Pretty much every major plot point is foreshadowed in some small way—but one event pays off on a joke that’s been running since the very first episode.

Season 4, Episode 1: Season four starts off with Michael finally, albeit briefly, moving to Phoenix, a town that the narrator describes as a place “he'd always imagined would be his destiny.” We should have seen this coming, as Michael threatens to leave the family to live in Phoenix during the first episode of both seasons one and two. Another allusion to Michael’s love for Phoenix is the fact that he attends The University of Phoenix online throughout season four.

9. EVERYONE'S "A HOT MESS"

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 4, Episode 10: During this episode, Lucille and Buster discover a phrase that both find very useful in their arguments, and it becomes a running joke between the two: "A hot mess." They’re a little behind the times, though. Michael uses the phrase to describe Lucille 2 in the first episode of the season and Oscar yells it to Dr. Norman in the second.

10. GEORGE MICHAEL'S FAKEBLOCK

Season 4, Episode 1: The computer program that George Michael develops throughout season four isn’t what it appears to be. Scenes falsely hinting that it is privacy software are spread in the first episode. But when George Michael is introduced earlier in the episode, the sound of a woodblock, foreshadowing what he’s really working on, underscores his name.

11. ENDING UP ON THE "WRONG SIDE" OF A NOODLE

A screen grab from 'Arrested Development'
Netflix

Season 4, Episode 10: An incarcerated Lucille gets attacked by her Asian gang mate, armed with a sharpened noodle. But this wasn’t the first time that the Bluth matriarch had ended up on the “wrong side of a noodle.” George Sr. apologized for a much different kind of noodle stabbing in episode two, foreshadowing both Lucille’s run-in with the Jade Dragon Triad and George Sr.’s evaporating masculinity with a single line of dialogue.

With another season of Arrested Development to binge-watch, there's sure to be more wild foreshadowing to come. (Thanks to Recurring Developments and The Arrested Development Wiki for assistance with episode numbers.)

An earlier version of this post originally appeared in 2014.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios