Family & Companions
Though Rita Wilson began her career as an actress in films like "Volunteers" (1985), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "Runaway Bride" (1999), she found her greatest success as the producer of two highly successful films, the comedy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002) and the musical "Mamma Mia!" (2008), which broke box office records around the globe. Though a skilled performer with a talent for light comedy, Wilson never quite found her star vehicle as an actress, but after her marriage to occasional co-star Tom Hanks, she began exploring production properties through his company, Playtone. With two major hits to her credit, Wilson proved herself to be a shrewd predictor of audience tastes, and one of the most accomplished independent producers of the new millennium.
Born Margarita Ibramihoff on Oct. 26, 1956, Rita Wilson's parents - her father was Bulgarian, while mother Dorothy was Greek - changed their surname to Wilson after moving to the United States. The second of three children, Wilson had a taste of the entertainment business at an early age when she appeared as a bit player in the Elvis Presley vehicle "Spinout" (1966). She later worked as a teen fashion model while attending Hollywood High School. After graduation, she decided to pursue acting fulltime, and made her television debut on "The Brady Bunch" (ABC, 1969-1974) as one of Marcia Brady's competitors for the title of head cheerleader. Though she worked steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the tall, attractive Wilson was largely cast in decorative parts, including a semi-recurring turn as Nurse Lacey on "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983). Occasionally, her knack for comedy was given an outlet, like a 1981 appearance on "Bosom Buddies" (ABC, 1980-1982) as co-star Peter Scolari's date, who turned out to be a Satanist. The episode also marked her first screen appearance with future husband Tom Hanks though it would be few years before they caught one another's eye.
Wilson made her feature debut in 1979's "The Day It Came to Earth," a micro-budgeted science fiction movie shot in Arkansas by Harry Thomason, who later produced "Designing Women" (CBS, 1986-1993). By 1980, she had progressed no further than a bit part in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie," so she accepted an invitation to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After honing her craft, Wilson returned to the United States, where she landed the female lead in Nicholas Meyer's "Volunteers" (1985), a broad comedy starring Hanks as a wealthy lout who escaped a gambling debt by joining the Peace Corps in 1960s Thailand. Though a flop at the box office, it sparked a romance between Wilson and Hanks, who married in 1988 and reigned as one of the happiest couplings in Tinseltown.
Wilson gradually worked her way up the TV food chain to meatier guest starring roles in shows like "thirtysomething (ABC, 1987-1991), as well as supporting turns in major features. Several of these starred her husband, but she made the most of her appearances, especially in "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), where she won praise for a monologue in which she blubbers her way through a description of the romantic film "An Affair to Remember" (1957). This and other appealing turns, like her unctuous PR flack in Brian De Palma's "Bonfire of the Vanities" (1990) and the glamorous designer Carolyn Roehme, wife to investor Henry Kravis (Jonathan Pryce) in "Barbarians at the Gate" (1991), marked Wilson as a capable and versatile actress in her own right.
In the late '90s, Wilson essayed a large number of spouses and best friends in features; she was Arnold Schwarzenegger's neglected wife in "Jingle All The Way" (1996) and gave a sympathetic turn as Susan Borman, wife of astronaut Frank Borman (David Andrews) in the Hanks-produced miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" (HBO, 1998), with one episode, directed by her husband, devoted to her perspective as her astronaut husband became one of the first humans to orbit the Moon. There were also turns as Richard Gere's ex-wife in "Runaway Bride" (1999) and the wife of actor Bob Crane (played by Greg Kinnear) in Paul Schrader's grimy but sharp "Auto Focus" (2002). Wilson had essentially found her niche, and played the roles, however repetitive, with conviction.
Her career shifted in the early millennium after attending actress Nia Vardalos' one-woman play "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Vardalos' script, which detailed her Greek upbringing, struck a chord with the half-Greek Wilson, who convinced Hanks to attend the show with her. Wilson was convinced that the play would provide an excellent basis for a feature film, and began developing one through Hanks' production company, Playtone, with the relatively unknown Vardalos as its star. A seemingly minor film with no major stars and a $5 million budget, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" became the surprise hit of the spring of 2002, and eventually blossomed into the most profitable romantic comedy in history. Wilson also served as executive producer for the short-lived "My Big Fat Greek Life" (CBS, 2003), which brought many of the film's cast to a weekly comedy format. For her efforts on the feature, Wilson received the Producers Guild of America Visionary Award, as well as a nomination for Producer of the Year from the Producers Guild of America.
Back on the big screen, Wilson gave a memorable character turn in the indie drama "The Chumbscrubber" (2005), essaying the self-obsessed and demanding mother of a kidnap victim. Wilson next served as producer on Vardalos' less successful follow-ups, "Connie and Carla" (2004) and "My Life in Ruins" (2009) before striking gold again with "Mamma Mia!" (2008), based on the popular musical of the same name and featuring songs by the pop group ABBA. Featuring a cast led by Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Bronson, the film's infectious songs and brassy performances helped to make it the most successful musical in film history. During this prolific period, Wilson also continued to act, largely in supporting turns in unremarkable films like "Old Dogs" (2009) and "It's Complicated" (2009).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Acted on the CBS series "Flying High"
Feature film debut, "Cheech & Chong's Next Movie"
Guest starred on future husband Tom Hanks' sitcom "Bosom Buddies" (ABC)
First recurring role on a TV series, playing Nurse Lacey on "M*A*S*H" (CBS)
Made guest appearances on two episodes of ABC's "Happy Days" (billed as Margarita Ibrahimoff)
First starring role in a feature, "Volunteers" opposite Hanks
Cast as a P.R. woman in "The Bonfire of the Vanities," starring Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith
Played a supporting role in Nora Ephron's romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle," starring Hanks and Meg Ryan
Again teamed with Ephron for "Mixed Nuts"
Co-starred with Griffith, Rosie O'Donnell, and Demi Moore in the coming of age ensemble drama "Now and Then"
Cast opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the comedy "Jingle All the Way"
Played Susan Borman, wife of astronaut Frank Borman in the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon"; husband Hanks directed, produced, and scripted
Withdrew from the cast of Neil Simon's play "The Dinner Party" due to creative differences
Cast as Richard Gere's ex-wife in "Runaway Bride"
Acted in the LA premiere of the Pulitzer-winning "Dinner With Friends"
Co-produced (with Hanks) Nia Vardalos's feature adaptation "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"; was the driving force behind the film, which became the highest-grossing independent film of all time
Played Bob Crane's wife (Greg Kinnear) in "Autofocus"
Produced the short-lived CBS series "My Big Fat Greek Life," also starring Vardalos
Co-starred in Arie Posin's darkly satiric feature "The Chumscrubber"
Performed the role of Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival of "Chicago"
Executive produced (with Hanks) the film adaptation of the West End stage musical "Mamma Mia!"
Appeared with Robin Williams and John Travolta in the comedy "Old Dogs"
Co-starred in the comedy "It's Complicated," directed by Nancy Meyers
Reteamed with Hanks and Julia Roberts in "Larry Crowne"
Released her debut album <i>AM/FM</i>