GIA CARIDES: ON PREGNANCY, MARRIAGE AND A BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING
EXCLUSIVE Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
Gia Carides was looking tanned and chirpy despite being a little over three months pregnant. Wearing a black outfit, her pregnancy was visible enough and the still ravishing and youthful 38-year old Aussie actress was glowing. "It's a great feeling being pregnant and we're both so happy."
Sipping a caffeine-free concoction ["Caffeine was the last drug I had to give up being pregnant"] in a coffee shop not far from where Gia Carides shares her home and life with actor Anthony LaPaglia in the trendy suburb of Brentwood. Together with Anthony LaPaglia for 10 years and married for two of those, Gia Carides jokes that it has always taken the couple longer than necessary "to kind of do things in the relationship. We waited 8 years to tie the knot because we couldn't get our act together. Finally Anthony just had the shits and said: Are you going to marry me or what?" Two years later, the couple are expecting their first child. "We certainly don't believe in rushing into anything," laughs Gia Carides. Gia Carides is expected to give birth "early in the new year" but she doesn't know, or want to know, the sex of the child. "We want to be pleasantly surprised."
Life is pretty good for the actress who left behind more than a promising film career to live with her Adelaide-born husband, whom she met at a party while he was in Sydney shooting his first Australian film, "The Custodian", in 1993. Her film career in Hollywood has had its share of ups and downs, and if there is a hint of disappointment in Gia, it is clearly that her acting career never took off to the extent that it should have, following "Strictly Ballroom's" blitz on the US.
"I did this movie called "Bad Company" not long after I came over here with Anthony, and it had the potential to be huge. It starred Lawrence Fishburne and Ellen Barkin, but it was probably too dark and too controversial at the time, so nobody went to see it. If that movie had been as big as we were expecting, maybe my career would have been in a different place." It's all about timing, Carides insists. Close friends with Naomi Watts, Gia Carides remembers when the pair were off auditioning for films and TV pilots just over a year ago. "I remember Naomi telling me that she had just done this TV pilot for David Lynch which failed to get picked up. Then he re-cut it, turned it into a movie and Naomi's a star. Timing is everything in this game."
Acting since she was 12, Gia Carides first played Bryan Brown's daughter in the acclaimed "Love Letters From Teralba Road" back in 1977. 30 years later, she auditioned for the role of his wife in the recent "Dirty Deeds". "That would have been fun, but the role went to Toni [Colette] who's an amazing actress." Despite her longevity, Gia Carides says that she still has to "put myself out there" even when it came to "Lantana", a film she wanted so much to be a part of. "Considering that I had done "Bliss" for Ray Lawrence, I figured I had a chance, but I guess he didn't feel I was right." But Gia Carides, who says that acting remains her passion, has a back up plan. "I'm working on a screenplay at the moment, and ironically, there's not a part in it for me. Here I am creating a film and I forget to design a character for me," she says laughingly.
Perhaps things will change thanks to a little movie released here called "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". A movie for which she almost missed out on auditioning. "I read the script and never laughed so much in my life; there was no way I wasn't going to be a part of that." Her agent got her the audition, which was to take place during the shooting of another film, "Thank Heaven", in which she plays an angel alongside Jenny McCarthy. "They had given me the time off to audition for "Greek Wedding", but then their schedule changed and they changed their minds. I was so pissed off, that I called my agent and told them to do what they could to get me out of the film. There was NO WAY I wasn't going to audition for a comedy being produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson for God's sake!"
So with no notice and dressed as her angelic character with large hair style and 1940s clothes, Gia Carides rushed to her audition where she was greeted by star and creator of the piece, Nia Vardalos. "She gave me a hug and said 'My God, you're Greek, just like me', come in and audition." Suffice to say, Gia Carides landed the scene-stealing role of Cousin Nikki, in this wildly irreverent look at a young Greek woman who ends up falling in love with a WASPish outsider, much to the chagrin of her very Greek family. Made on a very small budget outside the Hollywood studio system, the film has grossed over $80 million. Gia Carides attributes its success "to its fairytale, Cinderella element" as well as its irreverent sense of humour. "I really understood this film when I read it. I was also a Greek girl who ended up falling in love with an outsider. Though in my case, the fact that Anthony was Italian helped me a bit." While Fortoula 'Toula' Portokalos, the central character of "Greek Wedding", has some difficulty persuading her tough father to accept her new boyfriend, Gia Carides had no such worries. "My mum is English for starters, so she understood perfectly. And my dad and Anthony shared a love of old movies, so he was in from the beginning." Carides is certain that the film will as easily strike a chord among Australian moviegoers as it did Americans. "It's about family and acceptance, great universal themes. Plus it's as funny as hell."
While Gia Carides hopes that the film's success will lead to some solid offers, the now veteran actress is content waiting for motherhood to rear its lovely head. It has been quite a time for Gia Carides, whose father passed away last Christmas, but says that she is gratified "to have found someone like Anthony" in her life. "At times I wish I had a more successful acting career here. I often wonder if things had been different had I moved here when I was in my early twenties." But then she may never have met her husband. So, perhaps, she says smilingly, life is not too bad, "and I really love LA, especially being here with your lifelong partner."
Successful movie, impending motherhood and being in love. Sounds fine to me!