It was one of those Zeus-thrown lightning bolt storms—the kind that makes you question your fate and reach enthusiastically for your cell phone to dial the $3 per minute call to Mom and Dad, to tell them how much you really do love them, even though you leave them to run back to Greece every year. Our palpable terror was amplified by the backdrop for this storm, the Temple of Apollo. Stranded by the fear of being hit by one of those lightning bolts and the revulsion of returning to my hotel room covered in mud, I was huddled under a flimsy tent shelter along with a dozen Greek nicotine addicts.
Nia Vardalos, on a makeshift folding-chair throne under a slightly wider tent than ours, was probably contemplating if it had been worth her year-long effort to obtain Greek permission to film at the ancient sites of Delphi, Olympia and the Acropolis. Everyone was muttering under their breath that we had finally incited the wrath of Apollo and must suffer the consequences. Many, however, especially the non-Greeks, were not aware of the peculiar propensity for Greek lightening to find its human mark. Mountain goat-herders top the at-risk list. Even wedding parties were not immune, such as the one in the appropriately-named town of Drama. The headline read: Drama in Drama. My absolute favorite, though, had to be the Athenian widow’s story. Was it one year ago or two that I had morosely laughed at this typical Modern Greek tragedy? An Athenian widow attends her husband’s funeral at Athens’ A Cemetery. It is raining. She is carrying a metal-tipped umbrella. She is struck by lightning and instantly reunited with her dead spouse.
Only in Greece.
So this was going through my mind, alongside the calculation of my rapidly decreasing lifespan, courtesy of second-hand smoke inhalation. The doctor side of me never allowed my complete enjoyment of Greece. In the end, that was the side that won out. I couldn’t imagine Zeus taking my life at my beloved Delphi, although flashing through my mind was the possibility that my natural tendency to worship the ancient Goddess and hang out at the lower Temple of Athena site might have finally pissed Apollo off. In an instant, I went for it and ran--across slippery marbled boulders and down muddied paths--while breathing in the pungent pine tree drenched aroma. I ran past the make-shift day camp where the actors had attended their luncheon banquet while, we, the peon extras, ate ours out of boxes. I ran past the portable toilets, which now represented my only claim to movie fame when I inadvertently stopped the production because I needed to pee. I’m sure that the assistant extra casting director regretted his decision to make me Nia’s stand-in, but, honestly, was it my fault that I most closely matched her height and frame? He was already irritated by my hanging out with the crew and not with the extras, the same crew that I happened to have met the prior week on Skopelos during the filming of Mamma Mia.
I was rewarded for my muddy dash at the base of Mount Parnassus with a ride back to my hotel room by none other than Alexis Georgoulis’ brother. Georgoulis is the handsome Greek actor, very popular amongst young Greek women, who co-stars as Nia’s driver. My Greek girlfriends kept harassing me about getting his picture for them. That day, it was his brother, the real driver, who was my hero. As we were bantering back-and-forth in Greek during the short drive down the hill, I reflected on the bizarre sequence of events that had brought me to this moment. I was certain that Moira (pronounced mee-ra), fate, had, once again, played its role. Just a few days earlier I had returned to Athens from my yearly visit to my favorite island Skopelos. I was relating to my Greek landlady actress, Mania, the details of my completely unexpected role as an extra in Mamma Mia--about meeting Pierce Brosnan on the beach, about my impressions of Meryl Streep and Colin Firth. Then we jokingly talked about my upcoming yearly return to Delphi. I asked Mania if she could remember the last time, or any time, for that matter, that a movie had been filmed there. She could not. I had heard from the British camp crew on Skopelos that some of them would be traveling to Athens to set up for My Life in Ruins, but no one mentioned Delphi. So when I arrived in Delphi and told my Greek friends about my Mamma Mia experience they rather jadedly replied, “Yes. They are filming a movie here too.” And so it happened that I ended up as an extra in both movies at my two favorite Greek locations, Skopelos and Delphi, within a couple weeks. And now, after nineteen months, you too are in for a treat! You won’t need to travel far to experience these awesome ruins.
And if the spectacular scenery isn’t enough to keep you entertained, then look for me in the background at Delphi. I’m the one with the long black and white hair, the one trying not to look at the camera.
Read my interview with Andi about the shoot on her Blog here.
See the trailer here.
See my favorite interview with Alexis Georgoulis here.
For those of you who don't know who Alexis is, take a look at this Greek ad for My Life in Ruins:
Nia's parents are in the film and are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet!
Her husband Ian plays the hotel clerk.
Richard Dreyfuss' brother doubled for him.
Nia had last visited Delphi as a child.
In the film, Nia wears a cycladic figurine pendant.