Michael Constantine, the American actor who found countless uses for Windex as the patriarchal restaurant owner in the ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ films, has died at age 94, his hometown newspaper has reported.
Constantine died peacefully of natural causes on August 31 at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania, with family members at his side. His death was confirmed by his brother-in-law, Michael Gordon, the Reading Eagle reported.
Constantine, a heavyset, balding performer, appeared in more than 30 films, dozens of television shows and on the Broadway stage during a career that stretched back to the 1950s. But he will be best remembered as Kostas ‘Gus’ Portokalos, the old fashioned, loving and fiercely proud Greek father of the bride in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
The surprise 2002 hit romantic comedy – in which Constantine espoused the household cleaner Windex as a cure for all ailments – earned more than $US241 million ($A326 million) at the US box office and was followed by a 2016 sequel and the short-lived 2003 TV series My Big Fat Greek Life.
The film also brought the Greek-American actor, by then in his mid-70s, newfound fame.
“I’m actually sick of Windex,” he told the Hellenic News of America in 2017. “There must have been hundreds of bottles sent to me, and then there were all those people who asked me to autograph their Windex bottles.”
Constantine initially turned down the role but changed his mind after salary negotiations with the producer. He said he also was concerned about how Greeks would be portrayed in the film.
“I was more worried that they not do anything to insult the Greeks. To embarrass us. To make us look stupid or bad. Obviously, they didn’t” he told The National Herald newspaper in 2016.
Constantine was familiar to generations of TV viewers and appeared in a variety of roles in classic shows such as the Westerns Bonanza and Gunsmoke, the crime and courtroom dramas Perry Mason and Law and Order and the comedies The Love Boat and The Dick Van Dyke Show.
We are sending all our love and thoughts to his family and thank him for the amazing memories and laughs he has brought us all.