Photo: Johnny Melts From left to right, Athens Kouzzina's George Vasilos poses with director Philippe Falardeau and cinematographer Ronald Plante during filming of "The Good Lie."
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Last week started out like any week for George Vasilos. He met with vendors, dealt with invoices and served his Greek cuisine to his customers.
Everything changed on April 10, when he learned that a movie starring Reese Witherspoon was interested in filming at his eatery.
After completing the opening managerial duties at his restaurant Athens Kouzzina in Sugarloaf Mills Mall, Vasilos drank coffee with his staff to talk about the new day.
The meeting was interrupted by a distraction at the front door.
"Someone was outside in the mall taking photos of the business," he said. "We weren't even open yet, but they started shaking the front gates, saying, 'We like the look of your restaurant.'"
It turned out the photographers were with the production crew of Witherspoon's future flick "The Good Lie."
The next day, director Philippe Falardeau came to the Greek restaurant to look at the space through several lenses -- and he decided it was the place to film.
"The script was supposed to be a hamburger place, but after they saw the restaurant, they revised the setting to be a Greek restaurant," Vasilos said.
After quickly getting approval for Sugarloaf Mills' corporate office, the ball was set in motion. Vasilos' eatery was photographed from top to bottom, rearranged and set up for filming. Even some of Athens' servers and regulars were cast as extras for the scene.
"We were there and we were shot," Vasilos said. "One of my good customers who comes in three times a week sat in his same bar spot. The one scene I may be in, I got to serve him at the bar. It was pretty neat."
It took one morning to transform the space into something worthy of the big screen. Filming began at noon in the mall's parking lot. By 3 p.m., Witherspoon was indoors, ready to film over a Greek meal.
"She was nice," Vasilos said about the actress. "We shook hands and we didn't have a long conversation. We went right to work."
The restaurant supplied food for the scene, which included Greek salads, dips, lamb chops, stuffed grape leaves and a gyro. The director was specific about what he wanted on the table.
After many retakes, the cast and crew closed up shop at 11 p.m. and left for the night. On Friday morning, crews came back to clean up the place, which was ready to reopen by lunch.
"They don't just leave it trashed," Vasilos said. "Everyone was polite and professional. Not arrogant at all."
As an owner of a small restaurant, Vasilos was thrilled to be a part of a Hollywood opportunity.
"I was excited. I didn't know what to expect," he said. "... Excited to share our restaurant with the community and Gwinnett about who we are. I think it's a boom for Gwinnett County to have her out here. She's an Oscar winner."
Gwinnett County has seen its fair share of celebrity sightings in the past few years.
Alan Alda and Jennifer Aniston worked in the former Gwinnett Diner for the film "Wanderlust." Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis took over Gwinnett Medical Center -- Lawrenceville's North Tower for "Due Date." Kimberley Elise, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad and Whoopi Goldberg have also spent time here, filming at Joan Glancy Memorial Clinic in Duluth for Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls."
"The Good Lie" is slated to release in December.