LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The title of her new movie is "My Life in Ruins" but Nia Vardalos who shot to fame in the 2002 autobiographical hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" couldn't be happier.
The actress returns to the Greek theme in her first big screen outing in five years, playing a tour guide who goes to Athens to regain her mojo -- or kefi as the Greeks call it.
The romantic comedy also stars Richard Dreyfuss as a witty widower in the tour group from hell discovering Greece's ancient treasures. It opens in U.S. theaters on June 5.
In reality, Vardalos, 46, rediscovered her own joy in life more than a year ago when she got fit, dropped 40 pounds, and adopted a three-year-old girl with her husband, actor Ian Gomez, after a long struggle to conceive.
"In 2004 I came to the end of a 10-year infertility battle that knocked me over. So I decided to just quietly withdraw and write, and I enjoyed it.
"Now having come through it, I highly recommend it. I think when you let go and try and stop making things happen, you come out of it quite invigorated," Vardalos told Reuters.
Vardalos says she fell hard for the character of Georgia in "My Life in Ruins" although it was a rare instance of playing a role she hadn't written herself.
"She (Georgia) was so controlling and she had to learn to let go. I've always been told, work hard and anything you want can be achieved. That actually turns out not to be that true.
"I was daunted by the challenge of playing a character that I hadn't created. Then I felt liberated by that because I am an actor first. I think I forgot how much fun it was to be an actor in the years that I was away," she said.
Vardalos has struggled so far to capitalize on the success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", a low-budget charmer based on her own life that made $368 million worldwide at box offices and brought her a screenplay Oscar nomination.
A U.S. TV show based on the movie proved short-lived and Vardalos's 2004 film followup, "Connie and Carla", which she also wrote, made a disappointing $11.3 million globally.
Vardalos however found the unexpected success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" liberating rather than something to live up to. "This is something that you hope happens in your career so when it did, it's like, there's no pressure anymore.
"There is this idea I don't have to work because of the success of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'. Even if they had written me a check for $400 million, I still would be making movies. We work because we love to. It's so much fun," she said.
Vardalos also has another, smaller movie coming out this summer called "I Hate Valentine's Day" in which she teams up again with her "Greek Wedding" co-star John Corbett and which she wrote, directed and stars in. It's not a sequel to the 2002 hit -- but Vardalos says she hasn't ruled one out.
"I do want to write a sequel to 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' but we need to be a little bit older for the idea that I have," she said.
Meanwhile, family is a priority for Vardalos, whose husband and parents all appear in "My Life In Ruins". Her daughter, however, will be seeing less of the limelight. Vardalos and Gomez are not releasing her name in order to protect the family's privacy but say their life has changed completely.
"All I do is think about her. Even when she wakes up at 2 o'clock in the morning, Ian and I look at each other and we are smiling. We wanted this so badly," she said.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte