PW: In your memoir, Ask Me Again Tomorrow, you say the book-writing process was difficult at times, because you were trying to define yourself for readers and realized that one of your life's main themes has been to defy definition. Do you think that by the end of the book you finally succeeded in defining yourself?
Olympia Dukakis: No. I think by the end of the book I finally figured out I'll never define myself fully. It's a constantly changing process. And I'm an actress, redefining myself in each character I play.
PW: The book's structure is such that you describe winning the Academy Award first and then flash back to your childhood. Why did you decide to do it that way?
OD: I just didn't want to write the book in a linear way. I'd read so many of these autobiographies that went, "and then I was born, and then this happened, and then that happened." I wanted to organize the book around concerns that I've had all my life, issues that have confounded me, like my ethnicity and gender bias. I'm still confounded by those issues! [laughs]
PW: Do you resent the fact that most people know you best as Rose Castorini in Moonstruck, even though you think it wasn't the greatest part you have ever played?
OD: No, I don't. I'm very grateful that that experience happened. Rose Castorini has changed my life. My daughter was going to school on credit cards before Rose!
PW: You could have had a tremendous career in film after winning the Academy Award, yet you mainly stuck to theater. Why?
OD: I felt very committed to my theater company. After Rose, I did Steel Magnolias and other films, but theater for me is alive. You get out every night and you make it happen. With movies, you do all these different takes and then somebody else puts it together.
PW: You write about how, when you were a child, the "Greek kids stuck together" and "played with the Italian or Armenian or Jewish kids." Your group didn't include "Irish, English or other kids of Northern European descent." Why did you gravitate to the former group, and not the latter?
OD: There were a lot of reasons. First of all, they were here before us. They had the turf, if you understand what I mean.
PW: But you also write of the melting pot aspect of living in New York.
OD: This is what is so incredible about the effort in this country. Like that lady in the harbor says, you're tired and you're poor, and the effort to find a way for all these people of such very different, specific and profound experiences to live with each other, that's our identity as a nation, to be heterogeneous.
PW: Do you think My Big Fat Greek Wedding accurately portrayed a typical Greek-American family?
OD: That movie may portray Nia Vardalos's experience, but my experiences were not that way at all. Sometimes I think that movie is kind of a youngster's view of the Greek-American community. When you're younger, you only see the eccentricities, not the dimensionalities.
PW: You write that you were often cast into Italian roles. Do you think Greeks and Italians are similar?
OD: Oh, yes. I think Greek and Italian women are very strong and passionate. There's an old Greek expression that's especially true of Greek and Italian women: "Women are like dogs. They guard the house."