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Greek Superstar Spices Up "My Life in Ruins"

Romancing Nia Vardalos in Fox Searchlight’s hilarious comedy "My Life in Ruins" is Greek superstar Alexis Georgoulis who plays tour-bus driver, Poupi. The sweepingly romantic film will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4 and Greenbelt 3) starting Oct. 14.

In “My Life in Ruins,” Georgia (Vardalos) has lost her kefi (Greek for "mojo"). Discouraged by her lack of direction in life, she works as a travel guide, leading a rag-tag group of tourists as she tries to show them the beauty of her native Greece. While opening their eyes to an exotic foreign land, she too begins to see things in new ways the process.

Director Donald Petrie was in pre-production in Los Angeles when he first saw the audition tape of Alexis Georgoulis, a popular TV star in his native Greece. “Alexis just jumped off the screen,” he remembers. “But he was one of the first ones to read, so we said ‘Yeah, he’s really good, but we’ve got to keep looking.’ But he set the bar, and even though we must have spent three months looking at other actors for this role, we finally realized we weren’t going to find anyone better than the first guy through the door.

One of the selling points for Petrie was that Georgoulis was able to be off-putting, even a little scary at first, before evolving into the handsome leading man. But for Georgoulis, who’s making his American film debut, the job required some adjustments. “It was exciting yet stressful at the same time,” he says.

It was important to Vardalos that Poupi was a real person who the audience would relate to. “Alexis was as important to this movie as getting the permits to shoot at the Acropolis,” she says. “We masked this character for the first third of the movie. We took away an important actor’s tool: his face. We needed a very experienced actor and a very deep person to pull that off.”

“Nia told me that when she saw me, she said, ‘This is the character,’” Georgoulis says. “She said the character of Poupi represents the Greek way of thinking and living. I think if you came to Greece, you would agree.”

“Part romantic comedy, part tale of self-discovery, part travelogue, `My Life in Ruins’ is a journey many people will enjoy,” says Petrie.

The film is constructed much like a real guided tour through Greece. Consequently, much of the action is set on the tour bus or at the actual sites that travelers in Greece are likely to visit. Filming during the height of the tourist season posed a number of challenges. “One time we were shooting in the middle of the Plaka, the main square of Athens, kind of like Times Square,” says Vardalos. “In the middle of the scene, I heard some people say, ‘Hey it’s that girl from `My Big Fat Greek Wedding.’ Then they walked right into the shot and kissed me on the cheeks.”

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