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15 Big Facts About My Big Fat Greek Wedding

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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.

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11 Delicious Facts About Good Burger
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It takes just 14 words—“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”—to make a ‘90s kid swoon with nostalgia. Good Burger, the beloved Nickelodeon comedy about a couple of daft teens who try to save their fast food joint from corporate greed, was born out of a Kenan Thompson/Kel Mitchell sketch on All That in the mid-'90s. A year later, due to its popularity, it found itself being turned into its own live-action movie, with Brian Robbins at the helm. Today—20 years after its original release—it’s a silly cult hit that’s indelibly a part of Generation Y. Revisit the classic with these facts about Good Burger.

1. KEL MITCHELL AUDITIONED FOR ALL THAT WITH HIS CHARACTER FROM GOOD BURGER.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Kel Mitchell explained how he came up with Ed. “I did a ‘dude’ voice, and that’s where Ed [from Good Burger] was kind of born,” he said. “I did that there at the audition. They were just cracking up.”

2. ED’S FIRST APPEARANCE WAS IN THE JOSH SERVER SKETCH, “DREAM REMOTE.”

Essentially, Good Burger was born out of a random character decision made during one little sketch. “It was where [Josh] could have a remote control that could control his entire life,” Mitchell told The A.V. Club. “So, he could fast-forward through his sister nagging, he could make pizza come really quickly. I was the pizza guy. I came to the door, and the pizza guy didn’t really have a voice, so I was like, ‘Mleh, here’s your pizza! That was the first time we saw Ed, and so they created Good Burger.”

3. ED’S LOOK WAS INSPIRED BY MILLI VANILLI.

When prepping for Ed’s debut on All That, Kel Mitchell spotted what would become the character’s signature look. “I remember I went to the hair room, and I saw these braids. It was like these early Brandy ’90s Milli Vanilli braids. I put those on, and it came to life,” he told The A.V. Club.

4. THOUSANDS OF POUNDS OF MEAT STUNK UP THE SET.

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For a movie all about burgers, you better believe the production had a ton of them sitting around on set. "At one point, there was over 1750 pounds of meat on the set," Kenan Thompson told The Morning Call. "Some of it was old meat. It was so nasty. Some of the burgers would stay out there for a long time. I felt sorry for the extras who had to eat them with cold, clammy fries. But on screen, those burgers look good."

5. ELMER’S GLUE WAS USED TO KEEP THE FOOD LOOKING FRESH.

In order to keep the food looking good on screen, the production resorted to old, albeit inedible, tricks. "It was so gross, because when I scoop out ice cream in the movie, it was really vegetable shortening with food coloring,” Mitchell told The Morning Call. “When I poured milk on cereal, we used Elmer's Glue so the flakes wouldn't get soggy."

6. KENAN AND KEL CONTRIBUTED TO THE GOOD BURGER SOUNDTRACK.

Good Burger was their baby, so of course Kenan and Kel took the reins on more than just the creation of the characters, according to a 1997 interview with The Morning Call. Specifically, Kel partnered up with Less Than Jake on the hit song, “We’re All Dudes.” Because of this, the soundtrack actually charted at 101 on the Billboard 200.

7. GOOD BURGER WAS LINDA CARDELLINI’S FEATURE FILM DEBUT.

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In an interview with The A.V. Club, the Freaks and Geeks star reminisced about her breakout role in the Nickelodeon movie. “That’s my sister’s favorite role that I’ve ever played! It was so much fun. It was my first film, and it was a fantastic part,” Cardellini said. “I got to play crazy! Nobody knew who I was, and I got the part from the table read.”

8. WRITER DAN SCHNEIDER INTENDED TO GIVE UP ACTING WHEN HE WROTE GOOD BURGER, BUT HE PLAYED MR. BAILY IN THE FILM.

On creating Good Burger, writer/producer/actor Dan Schneider explained to The A.V. Club: “I’ve always wanted to write, and after I was doing All That and Kenan & Kel, I got the opportunity to do another TV show—I was still going on auditions. I realized that if I took that show, I was going to have to give up All That and Kenan & Kel. I really didn’t want to do [that] ... I passed on the acting role, and that was really the turning point, I guess, in 1996, when I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to put my acting career on the back burner, and I’m going to be a writer-producer.’ Then I wrote the movie Good Burger.” However, if you watch the movie, you’ll notice Schneider starring as Mr. Baily.

9. THE ORIGINAL TRAILER FEATURED A SCENE THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE MOVIE.

For reasons that remain a mystery, a scene where a Good Burger customer orders “a good shake” from Ed (Mitchell), only to receive an actual bodily shaking from the Good Burger employee, didn’t make the final cut. It did, however, feature for a few seconds in the theatrical trailer.

10. KENAN AND KEL REUNITED FOR A GOOD BURGER SKETCH ON THE TONIGHT SHOW.

In 2015, Kenan and Kel reunited for a Good Burger sketch with Jimmy Fallon. This time, however, Fallon played Ed’s co-worker, while Kenan came in as a construction worker as a surprise. "We've been wanting to get back together," Mitchell told E! News. "It was just about the right project ... it felt like home."

11. THE FIRST LINE IN THE FILM IS THE SAME AS THE LAST LINE.

Appropriately, the line is, “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger, can I take your order?”—just watch the movie.

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Her Other Forte: Comedian Phyllis Diller Was Also a Concert Pianist
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In 1971, a promising concert pianist made her symphonic debut, her fingers flying over Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. But the concert included a few surprising notes: The pianist was a woman. She was 53 years old. She just happened to be one of America's most famous comedians. And her concert was like nothing the classical music world had ever seen.

Even then, the thought of Phyllis Diller embarking on a career as a classical pianist was laughable. Since the 1950s, Diller—born 100 years ago, as Phyllis Driver, on July 17, 1917—had been breaking ground for women in comedy, morphing from a prop comedian to a TV and musical theater icon. But even though a spoof of a classical concert was one of the acts that propelled her to fame, Diller had long since given up on her dream of playing piano professionally.

As a child growing up in Ohio, Diller trained as a pianist. In her comic memoir Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse: My Life in Comedy, she recalls her mother pushing her toward piano, and though she was "no Mozart," she took intensive lessons and imagined herself "sitting before a fabulous concert grand" instead of giving performances for a piano teacher and her sleepy dog. She even studied piano in college. But eventually, Diller told a reporter, "I decided it was too stodgy for me. So I gave it up."

Music filtered into her comedy repertoire, though, and when the Pittsburgh Pops came calling in the 1970s in the hopes of having her perform a stand-up routine with the orchestra, she stunned the representative by telling him she would perform on the piano, as well. It's safe to assume nobody from the Pops had seen her on TV with Liberace two years earlier, her fingers flying over a piece she'd written herself called "Phyllis's Fugue." Diller signed on for a show called The Symphonic Phyllis Diller, never suspecting that her concert career was about to begin in earnest.

The show was half-gag, half-serious piano performance. The orchestra would perform without Diller, but eventually she'd make a grand entrance as Dame Illya Dillya, a diva who took forever to begin playing. Dame Dillya wore an 8-foot-long train and opera gloves and performed a 12-minute silent pantomime aping the pretensions of classical musicians.

"During the musical prologue, I'd dust the piano, check the score, and look at the audience through my binoculars—it was a long preamble," Diller later recalled. Then she launched into Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. "Once I was into the music, I was serious," she wrote, "and many in the audience were more than a little surprised."

During her concerts, Diller played selections from Bach, Chopin, and other classical musicians. Over time, she earned a reputation as a solid performer, with one reviewer calling her "a fine concert pianist with a firm touch." Eventually, though, Diller tired of the brutal regimen and retired from the concert circuit. "It became drudgery, it was taxing," Diller told The New York Times. "I needed at least three hours a day of practice and I didn't have the time."

Though her concert career was over, her comedy career certainly wasn't. After retiring from symphonic work in 1982, Diller did stand-up for another 20 years. She died in 2012 at the age of 95—and while her comedy is rightfully her biggest legacy, her surprising skill on the piano is worth a standing ovation as well.

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