Interview: Charming, Authentically Greek Alexis Georgoulis Debuts in ‘My Life in Ruins’

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CHICAGO – When Nia Vardalos, the bride in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, went to Greece to film her new release – “My Life in Ruins” – she also had to find a hunky Greek co-star. Enter Alexis Georgoulis, in his American film debut. Oscarman Rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

An unknown who had done obscure Greek films and TV shows, Georgoulis is embracing and absorbing his lucky break.

In the opening week anticipation of My Life in Ruins, Georgoulis sat down and talked with

“For me it was like a god came down to earth and said, ‘Would you like to do this?’” he recalled, laughing.

“I was giving a performance in a theater, and afterward a Greek casting director came to see me and asked me if I’d like to audition for an American movie,” he added. “I said why not, but in what language? He said English of course. Okay, I thought to myself, I have to learn English.”

Nia Vardalos and Alexis Georgoulis in ‘My Life in Ruins’
Nia Vardalos and Alexis Georgoulis in ‘My Life in Ruins’
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Nia Vardalos portrays Georgia, a Greek American professor who can neither find love nor a proper academic job while living in Athens. Working as a lowly bus tour guide through the ancient ruins of Greece, she even gets the short end of the stick with her customers, mostly boorish Americans and Europeans, including a rascally senior citizen named Irv (Richard Dreyfuss).

Alexis Georgoulis plays Poupi, the transforming bus driver who is smitten by Georgia. As they and their fellow travelers tour the ancient sites, mystical bonding begins to occur, with Irv leading the way with his special brand of optimism. Like the gods and goddesses of Greece, Georgia and Poupi have to co-mingle in their own special destiny.

Georgoulis described his anxiousness with being on an American-style movie set for the first time.

“The first day we were shooting a scene where Nia was checking out of the hotel and I had just shaved my beard,” he said. “I went behind her, I said ‘Kali Mera’, which is good morning in Greek. She was just suppose to ignore me. We did it once, okay, twice, three times…then Don [Petrie, the director] said once more for the actors.”

Petrie directed his actors to then improvise the next couple of takes. Alexis responded to a particular action by Vardalos.

“Nia looked at me straight in the eyes and kisses me,” he said. “Ah, I thought, this is improvisation.”

Alexis Georgoulis and Patrick McDonald, in Chicago on June 2nd, 2009
Alexis Georgoulis and Patrick McDonald, in Chicago on June 2nd, 2009
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald,

“So I tried to give back, hugging her, kissing her, back and forth for about twenty minutes. Then Nia’s husband, Ian Gomez, got into the frame and started going ‘oh baby’ and I thought, what is going on here?”

It turned out that Vardalos and Petrie was playing a little prank on the newcomer.

“It was a way just to welcome me,” he remembered, laughing. “They treated me like a part of the family. They really helped me, especially Nia, to make me feel comfortable and loose as an actor.”

Even though it was an American movie production, the film was shot in Athens and the surrounding historic ruins. Georgoulis spoke about giving his fellow cast and crew members the red carpet treatment in his own country.

“I felt like the tour guide,” he said. “Not only around the ruins but in showing off Athens at night. I welcomed them like the Greeks of the ancient times. I felt like they were in my house and I wanted to be the greatest of hosts.”

And how did the film capture his native Greek culture?

“It doesn’t miss anything, but it also can’t show everything,” he reflected. “Greek culture is 2,500 years old, so there is an amalgamation of cultures and ethos. It picked up some aspects of our people and presented them in the film. And whatever you pick up, that’s how the Greeks are.”

Finally, the pragmatic Alexis Georgoulis, while excited for his first big break, mostly understands the journey and craft in his chosen profession.

“As an actor, I don’t have any specific roles I want to play. For me, every role has the same difficulty and the same challenge,” he concluded. “You just have to open yourself, let yourself feel and then express. This process is always the same and you always have to start from scratch.”

’My Life in Ruins’ features Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexis Georgoulis, Rachel Dratch and Ian Gomez, is directed by Donald Petrie, and opens June 4th. Check local theaters for film and showtimes. staff writer Patrick McDonald

Staff Writer

© 2009 Patrick McDonald,

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