Finding the Unseen Greece for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

An exclusive Q&A with production designer Grant Armstrong

In My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, writer, director, and star Nia Vardalos offers the adventure of a lifetime to the Portokalos family. They fly to the Greek village where the family’s patriarch, Gus, grew up. Everyone—from Toula (Vardalos) to Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) to newer members like Paris (Elena Kampouris)—is overwhelmed by the country’s natural beauty and spirit of their family’s homeland.

To capture the magnificence of Greece and highlight the soul of its villages, Vardalos tapped production designer Grant Armstrong. Having worked for three decades on projects like The Danish Girl and Les Misérables, Armstrong understood the importance of respecting the unique identity of different cultures and the power of landscape to tell the story.

We spoke with Armstrong about creating the right village, discovering the unique landscape of Greece, and connecting to the personality of the Portokalos family.

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The official trailer for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3's production designer Grant Armstrong

How did you get involved in working on My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3?

The script was sent to me through my agent. I remember it landing in my email and thinking, “Big Fat Greek Wedding 3? Yes!” I did a presentation for Nia and the guys at Playtone, which went really well. From the start, Nia and I saw eye to eye on the look of the film.

What for you was the chief creative challenge in creating the film’s production design?

I wanted to maintain a transition from the first two films. What I loved about the first two films was the way they found humor in reality. We all have family like that. We all have our own Aunt Voula. I wanted to carry on those films’ unique comic sensibility but also explore the world of Greece. I wanted to capture its magic, which is not that hard to do because the country is so amazing. In picking locations, I wanted to showcase the best of Greece, to find new aspects of it, and not feature those parts we have seen in other movies.

The locations are everything here. How did you find them?

When we arrived in Athens, we tried to do as much as we could do there for practical reasons. We shot in Athens for two weeks. Next, we needed to find the right island. The whole story is about finding Gus' old home, which is in a fictional Greek village, because we wanted it to be representative of Greece as a whole. We looked in Northern Greece, on the west side of the country, and on different islands. The main focus was to find someplace with a grand neo-classical style and the faded grandeur of once-beautiful buildings. We found in Corfu most of what we were looking for. While we were in Athens, I would jump on a plane every few days to explore the villages in Corfu. I think I looked at every single village on the island.

Ultimately our village was created out of three different locations: a little village at the top of the island called Varipatedes, where a lot of the main sequence takes place; another area called Sokraki; and an area called Bouas Village in Danilia. It was created by the Bouas family in the 1970s as a recreation of a traditional Corfu village.

The Portokalos family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

There are so many beautiful parts of Greece in the film. What did you want your locations to tell us about the country and its people?

For me, Greece is a lot of different things. Obviously, it's about the sea. The water is like nothing I have ever seen. The natural beauty is magnificent, but so too are the little villages in the film. I loved the color and textures of them, but most of all, I loved the life in them. They're like little jewels on the top of these hilltops.

This is the third Greek Wedding film? What makes this family and its story so enduring?

They have something we all see in our own families, characteristics we recognize in our own lives.

What would you like audiences to take away?

That we are all one at the end of the day. We're all on this planet together. And, if you can do it, go and see Greece.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.