Tom Hanks' wife, Rita Wilson, saw the play and recommended that her husband produce a movie version. In an interview with the German magazine "Cinema," Nia Vardalos mentioned that she hung up when Hanks called because she did not believe it was really him.
When Aunt Voula learns that Ian is a vegetarian, she gets a bewildered look and replies, "That's okay. I make lamb." Nia Vardalos said this reflects the confusion that many Greeks have toward vegetarianism. During World War II, food was scarce, so Greeks subsisted on anything available. To them, a principle-base refusal to eat a certain kind of food makes little sense.
The scene where Andrea Martin playfully grabs John Corbett's hair was ad-libbed; Martin had forgotten her lines, played with Corbett's hair (to which Corbett stayed in character and played along), remembered her lines and continued. Nia Vardalos said it worked out so well, they decided to print the take and use it.
According to Nia Vardalos, paying for catering during the film proved not to be a problem. Wherever the film was being shot, whenever local Greek restaurants learned about it, they sent over lots of free food.
The opening scene where Nia Vardalos and Michael Constantine travel in the early morning to open the restaurant was one of the very last scenes filmed. Vardalos said all of the other cast members had finished their scenes and had left, and so the sadness she and Constantine displayed in that car scene reflected the tearful goodbyes they had said.
Despite its status as a small independent film, and despite never holding the number one spot at the American box office, the movie went on to earn almost U.S. $369 million, a return of over sixty-one times (6150%) its U.S. $6 million (inflation-adjusted) budget. For that reason, it is the second most profitable film of all time after Paranormal Activity (2007). That film returned 12,890 times the money invested (1289038.67%) with a budget of $15,000.00. The Worlwide Box Office stopped ringing in $193 million.
Had one of the longest theatrical runs for a film in the home video era, playing for 52 weeks, of which 28 were in wide release (600+ theaters). For reference, it played eleven weeks longer than Titanic (1997), the highest-grossing domestic release at that time.
When Ian is being baptised Greek Orthodox, he is given the Greek name of Ioannis. Ioannis in English translates to John, which is also the actor's real name, John Corbett. Ian is the Scottish Gaelic variation of the same name, which comes from the Hebrew name Jochanan or Yochanan.
Originally developed by Nia Vardalos as a one-woman stage show. The film had a special sneak preview at the Montreal Just For Laughs's Comedy film festival in July 2001, as she was performing in the same city.
Nia Vardalos is a Ryerson University graduate. The university was used for several scenes in the film. Kerr Hall is the school where Ian Miller teaches. The Rogers Communications building plays Harry S. Truman College.
In the fall of 2002, the film surpassed Dances with Wolves (1990) as the highest-grossing movie never to have hit number one at the weekend box office. By the weekend of October 4-6, it surpassed The Blair Witch Project (1999) as the highest-grossing independent film of all time, until March 2004, when it was surpassed by The Passion of the Christ (2004). Theaters continued to run the film after its initial video release.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the restaurant scene of Toula and Ian's first date, there is what appears to be two glass jars on a high shelf, with one filled with oranges and the other filled with apples. It is a running joke through the movie that Toula's father likes to show the route meaning of any word is Greek. Toula explains in the film that the root meaning of her family name is orange. During the toasts at Toula and Ian's wedding, Toula's father explains this and adds that Ian's surname of Miller has the root meaning of apple in Greek. This was hidden in the first stages of Toula and Ian's dating.
Toula's older sister, Athena, is shown to have three children at the start of the film. For the rest of the film, she is shown to be pregnant with a fourth. In the "six years later" epilogue, Athena is once again pregnant, giving her five children in all.