Michael Constantine, who portrayed the father of Nia Vardalos’ Toula Portokalos in the 2002 blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding, died on August 31st at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania, The New York Times reports. He was 94.
The film — which Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers called “heartfelt and hilarious in ways you can’t fake” — was a megahit and the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, as Variety notes.
In the role of Gus Portokalos — who owns a Chicago Greek diner — Constantine played an overly protective father whose traditional values are rooted in his Greek heritage, making references to words that have Greek connections — even when they don’t. He hilariously believes Windex is a cure-all, but most of all, his love for his daughter is palpable, even when he’s thwarting her love life.
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Constantine reprised his role in the short-lived 2003 television spin-off My Big Fat Greek Life and returned for the 2016 movie sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
Prior to his role in the breakout film, the actor was lauded for his role as principal Seymour Kaufman in the high school comedy television series Room 222, which earned him an Emmy in 1970 and an Emmy nomination in 1972.
Constantine played a variety of characters on television, including the title role as judge Matthew Sirota in the series Sirota’s Court, had a recurring role on Remington Steele; he guest-starred on shows such as Perry Mason, Murder She Wrote, and Law & Order.
Constantine’s film work includes 1959’s The Last Mile, 1961’s The Hustler, 1976’s Voyage of the Damned, and 1996’s The Juror and Stephen King’s Thinner.
The actor got his start on the stage, becoming the understudy for Paul Muni in 1955’s Inherit the Wind. His Broadway credits include appearing in 1957-58’s Compulsion and in the original Broadway production of The Miracle Worker in 1959.
“Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend,” Vardalos, who starred in and wrote My Big Fat Greek Wedding, posted in a tribute on Twitter. “Acting with him came with a rush of love and fun. I will treasure this man who brought Gus to life. He gave us so much laughter and deserves a rest now. We love you, Michael.”
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