“I think Tom and Barack Obama have caused this economic crisis so that the film would be successful,” Vardalos jokes. But the film didn’t start out as a reaction to the recession, it was simply an idea that Hanks brought to her about starting over. “It was Tom’s idea, he came to me I think it was in 2005 or 2006. [While she was at Playtone with "My Life in Ruins"] Tom said ‘I have an idea for a movie, do you want to write it?’ So we sat down in his office and he laid out the entire idea -- it was very clear in his head -- of what would happen if a man at 50 years old lost his job through no fault of his own because of downsizing and had to reinvent himself," she explained "He wanted to keep it as a very quiet story, a very streamlined idea, because I think Tom’s approach is very much... he is the everyman.”
Vardalos also drew from her own working-class background while writing, “I had a job at 16 and although I didn’t like that, I’m very, very grateful for that now because it taught me to be self-supporting and not dependent.” The experience also gave her a sense of humility that came in handy when working as a struggling actress, willing to take a job as perfunctory as selling T-shirts in The Second City Chicago lobby (where she was a performer) to make extra income. “And that I think is what Larry Crowne is going through,” she explained. “Larry will do anything to make a living and that is indicative I think globally and much more so in this country. People are just trying to get by.”
But ‘Crowne’ is no Steinbeck, and from the beginning, Hanks and Vardalos set out to tell a story that was positive and uplifting saying, “This is not a downer movie, this is an uplifting movie and yet it is not out of the realm of ordinary.” In fact, "Larry Crowne," Vardalos believes, is the kind of movie that audiences have been asking for. “We are all saying the same thing, reviewers say it, audiences say it, we all say we want adult movies,” she said, appealing to the room of critics before her, “and this is a movie that we strive to keep uplifting about a very real topic. It’s a romantic comedy about something that is relevant. So the fine line that I think Tom walked so well is to keep it light and quippy and Tom Hanks-like, and earnest and charming which is everything that this man actually is.”
And while her co-writer Hanks is the star of the picture, Vardalos decided to confine herself to the role of writer this time around, though she does have a brief cameo -- if you’re listening closely. “I play the GPS, the voice of the GPS, so yes, I will be getting some residuals from this movie,” she laughs. But when speaking on upcoming projects, the comedienne admits that she prefers time in front of the camera, “[writing] is very lonely, it’s very daunting. I have a voice in my head the whole time telling me I’m a fraud, no one will buy it, and you just click away, click away, push through,” but time on the “Larry Crowne” set made her terribly proud to have been a writer on the project. “On that set I got to go everyday and watch and learn. I treated it like film school and I became very proud to be a member of the WGA. I sometimes feel like, again, I’m grateful to be working always, but it’s not what I want to do. I write so that I can act.”
So what’s next for the multi-talented star? Well, more writing. “I’m writing a Fox Studios pilot for television that I will probably direct and play a small part in. I’ve written something for Walden Studios called 'Happy Mother’s Day' about four moms who run away from home, and I’m writing a script with Rob Riggle.” Yes, she said Rob Riggle, the comedian who's popped up in some memorable rolls over the past few years on your small screen, and more recently the big screen, including "Larry Crowne." In fact it was on the set of the film that the two met, “We made each other laugh so hard on the shoe aisle at Umart [the fictional store in the film] that we decided to just write together.” Hmm. An interesting pairing (no pun intended) that we’re certainly excited to see the results of.
You can see (or hear) both coming up July 1st in “Larry Crowne.” Watch for more more coverage as the release date draws near.