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All she wanted was a free breakfast...

An interview with Lainie Kazan

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Best known, at least as of late, as Maria Portokalos in the monster hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, singer-actress Lainie Kazan is also an accomplished singer, a Tony nominee (for My Favorite Year), a Golden Globe nominee (also for My Favorite Year), an Emmy nominee (for St. Elsewhere), and Barbra Streisand's understudy in the original Broadway production of Funny Girl. Tired of always being a bridesmaid, Kazan comes to Rochester to receive the High Falls Film Festival's "Failure is Impossible" award. Will she pull a Pam Grier and leave her groom at the altar? Read on to find out.

City: "Greek Wedding"... what the hell? Did anybody see that coming?

            Kazan: I didn't, certainly. We made a little movie for a little bit of money, had a great time and never expected this. Never ever in a million years.

            City: How did you get involved in the film?

            Kazan: About three years ago I was called by my agent, who said Tom Hanks called and wanted to do a table reading of a movie a young woman wrote, and would I be interested in reading it. So I went and read the piece, and had a great time and a great breakfast. Tom Hanks said to me, "If we ever do this movie, we'll call you," and I said, "Yeah, sure," never suspecting they would even call me. I got a call about a year and a half after that. The screenplay was written and they wanted me to play the mother, and I took the job.

            We went to Toronto, had a phenomenal time, and thought the film would maybe end up in a couple of art theatres. We had a huge gala opening and the movie kept growing and growing, and it's been out since April now. I'm just thrilled. I couldn't be happier, and now we're doing a series.

            City: So at best, you hoped to get a free breakfast out of this, and now, $150 million and a television series later...

            Kazan: Isn't it phenomenal? I'm so thrilled.

            City: You're going to be involved in the series?

            Kazan: I am. We're doing a series for CBS.

            City: Who else is coming back to do the series?

            Kazan: Nia, myself, Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin, Gia Carides, and Louie Mandylor. Almost everybody. And I think Joey Fatone is even going to do a couple of guest spots.

            City:Is there any talk of doing a theatrical sequel?

            Kazan: Probably, but not right away because Nia is really concerned about the television show.

            City: That seems like it would be a very fun role to play.

            Kazan: Oh, I loved it. Most people think I'm Greek, and I'm not Greek at all. So it was a challenge to get that Greek accent down. Once I got it down, it just rolled off my tongue. The rest was just a piece of cake. It was great fun, and to work with Nia --- she is such a delight. I just can't tell you how bright and warm and wonderful she is.

            City: I know it's kind of early, but what do you think of the Oscar buzz you and the film are getting?

            Kazan: It would be really sweet, but I'm not even thinking like that. Everybody tells me, "You should be nominated for Best Supporting Actress," but I don't know. That would definitely be a gift.

            City: The award you're receiving from the festival was given to Pam Grier last year, but she canceled at the last minute. You're not going to stiff us, are you?

            Kazan: I'm not going to stiff you. That's awful. I'll be there.

Lainie Kazan, recipient of this year's "Failure is Impossible" award, appears Saturday, November 2 at 3:30 p.m. at the Dryden Theatre as part of the High Falls Film Festival. Tickets for Lainie Kazan in Conversation with Jack Garner are $5 and available through Ticket Express (in person only at 100 East Avenue), or at the Dryden one hour before the event begins.

In This Guide...

    High Falls Festival Films

    Wednesday, October 30 Frida

    Eat these shorts

    The feature films get most of the attention at High Falls and pretty much every other festival in the world. But that doesn't mean you should ignore the short films.

    For the kids

    With films about huffing gas, Bloody Sunday, and capital punishment, you might think the High Falls Film Festival would be the last place you'd want to take your kids (well, almost the last place --- there's also that family vacation down I-95). Think again.

    The schedule

    Wednesday, October 30 Frida, 7 p.m., Dryden Theatre

    Mourning and huffing

    An interview with Gordy Hoffman
    An interview with Gordy Hoffman

    Go ahead and have a cow, man

    An interview with Nancy Cartwright
    An interview with Nancy Cartwright

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