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‘Ruins’ come to life October 27, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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Greek-Canadian writer and director Nia Vardalos was in Greece working on a film that co-star Richard Dreyfuss says is about the ever-present possibility of love

Flanked by US actor Richard Dreyfuss on one side and Greek heartthrob Alexis Georgoulis on the other, writer and actress Nia Vardalos glowed as she addressed the press early this month. In town for the shooting of her new film My Life in Ruins, the star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding looked leaner and more glamorous than she did when she played the ugly duckling role for which she’s best known.

“I’m just a girl from Winnipeg,” said the Greek-Canadian actress, who still sounds a little shocked at her quick fame. “It’s a dream to be here,” she added, before confessing: “I get a little choked up to see the word ‘Coppertone’ in Greek.”

Vardalos co-wrote with Mike Reiss and stars in the romantic comedy My Life in Ruins. The film went into production in Spain earlier this summer before shooting throughout Greece from October 9 to 16. Some of the film was shot at the Acropolis on October 13. Though Greek films often depict the Acropolis, it is a rare thing for a foreign production to obtain permission to film there. Vardalos underlined this fact, and Dreyfuss joked about Francis Ford Coppola’s lack of such a permit for filming scenes from New York Stories there in 1989.

“The biggest challenge we have,” noted the film’s director, Donald Petrie [Mystic Pizza, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days], “is that these sites, Olympia, Delphi and the Acropolis, are almost too big to capture on film.” He pointed out: “They are more than just places, they have an aura, a mystery. You walk into these places and it takes your breath away… I almost needed IMAX.”

The filmmaker revealed that he moved the Acropolis scene from the beginning of the film to the end as he felt “the journey ends at the Acropolis”. Petrie indicated that he wasn’t sure if the production will have to digitally recreate the green areas around charred Olympia. Petrie emphasised the fact that the film’s production didn’t interfere with the sites. “If it says ‘Do Not Touch’, obviously, we are not planting a light on top of it,” he explained. “If the script had paintball war in Ancient Olympia, they would have said, ‘No.'”

Upon reviewing the script for approval, the Greek government provided some help by pointing out historical inaccuracies. The film certainly promotes Greek tourism. Petrie explained that Vardalos plays a tour guide who has “lost her passion” for her job. But, while leading around a group, including a man named Herb, “she is almost taught to re-find her passion”. When the film comes out next year, Petrie hopes it will make viewers laugh, as well as cry.

Herb is played by Dreyfuss, who said he came out of retirement to play the part, he teaches civics. “I’ve always wanted to shoot in Greece,” Dreyfuss repeated more than once at the press conference. When asked the actor why Herb is the one who makes a difference in the tour group, he replied: “He woke up every day for 20 years smiling because he was in love with his wife and she with him.”

The actor enthused about Greece’s mythological, artistic and ethical contributions to the world. Dreyfuss said that “film is about magic and the mysterious”, but noted: “Film has created a cynicism and a shallowness in the world that is huge.” He said that he hopes My Life in Ruins will provide a message instead about “the ever-present possibility of love”.

My Life in Ruins is one of the first projects to be assisted by the new Hellenic Film Commission, which opened in 2007 with the purpose of facilitating productions shot in Greece. The office is affiliated with the Greek Film Centre, which funds and produces most local films. The film is the second one, after Mamma Mia!, to be shot in Greece this fall with Tom Hanks’ name in the production credits.

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