"Nia Vardalos, who wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I started talking about this about six years ago," Tom says. "Junior college, for me, it was the only avenue I had to a higher education. ... Junior college saved my life when I was 19, and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to go back to junior college? And so what are the circumstances that would make a guy like me go back to junior college?' And losing his job was a big one."
Tom says he always had Julia in mind to play Larry's college professor, Mercedes Tainot, a woman in the midst of a full-blown midlife crisis. "I always thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if Julia would do it?'" he says.
Julia says Tom's movie pitch was timed perfectly. "I had just arrived in Rome beginning Eat Pray Love," she says. "I was carbo-loading and drunk, and I get this email [from Tom] that says, 'This is just business. If you don't like it, we're still buddies. Have a look and tell me what you think.' Now had he sent this four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 weeks later? [I would have said], 'No, I can't.' But I was all fresh with how creative and fabulous it is to make a movie, and I read it, and I thought it was so winning and funny. And the idea of being an alcoholic school teacher at junior college was just too good to be true."