In My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, creator Nia Vardalos takes her cinematic family, the Portokalos clan, to Greece to connect with their roots. For everyone, from Toula (Vardalos) to Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), the natural beauty of Greece and the spirit of its people prove a revelation.
Vardalos worked with cinematographer Barry Peterson to showcase the country’s striking scenery. Slant writes that the film “luxuriates in the searing blue of the Ionian Sea and the lush forests of the Greek island of Corfu.”
We spoke with Peterson about the beauty of the film’s locations, the special light in Corfu, and the universal appeal of the Portokalos family.
How to get you involved with shooting My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3?
Nia and the producers put together a list early on of 12 to 15 film comedies which they liked the look of, and my name happened to be on a few of those. Next, Nia and I had a Zoom call and got along incredibly well. And the rest is, well, on film.
What were the creative challenges for you?
When I read the screenplay, my gut instinct was that this is not as much about the people—although it is—as it is a love story to Greece. It was clear we had to showcase what a magical place it is. We knew that there was going to be a big contrast between the family leaving Chicago and ending up in Greece. We wanted to capture that change visually. The second the airplane door opened, I wanted the characters backlit and bathed in the warm light of Greece.
There are so many gorgeous locations. How did you choose them?
Initially it was just how they appeared in scope. I wanted the audience to see beautiful things. We looked for special locations, like on the beach, that little alcove that gives you a unique perspective. But there are so many amazing views in Greece. We would be driving around in the production van, and I would yell, “Stop. That's an incredible place. Maybe we could shoot there.”
The film shows a different side of Greece than we often see in film.
We shot on Corfu, which is not an area that I’ve seen a lot in movies. Typically, one sees those Greek villages with the white buildings, places that are islands like Santorini, which are a lot closer to Athens. Because Corfu is closer to Italy, a lot of the architecture has a warm Italian vibe with buildings painted in sienna and yellow.
The light is so brilliant in Greece. Did that pose a challenge?
We definitely put up some negatives, like black drapes, to absorb light in some places. In the end, I don’t think that the light there is any stronger than in other places. I just found the light was incredibly crisp on Corfu because there is no pollution. There's no big industry there so it really is just a beautiful, clean place.
Were there specific scenes that you felt turned out particularly well?
There's a party that really worked out well. In that scene, it wasn’t so much about the scope of what Greece looked like but about the spirit of people.
What makes the characters and story of the Greek Wedding movies so enduring?
We can all relate to the characters. We’ve all got family members that are fun, and we've all got ones that are angry. The family is a melting pot of all of us.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.