Independent comedies still hold writer/star Nia Vardalos’ film My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a high water mark for what you can do with a personal story, and a lot of laughs. Part of that winning formula was the casting of legendary actor Michael Constantine, who played the fictional versions of Nia’s father, Constantine “Gus” Vardalos. Which makes Ms. Vardalos’ confirmation that her on screen father has passed at the age of 94 all the more bittersweet, as seen in her beautiful tribute to Mr. Constantine.
Michael Constantine was reported by USA Today as passing due to natural causes, at home in Reading, PA, while surrounded by his family. Gus was Constantine’s final major role, in a career that spanned both television and movies. Reprising the role in 2003’s TV spin-off, My Big Fat Greek Life, as well as the cinematic sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 in 2016, Michael Constantine obviously had an extensive working relationship with Nia Vardalos. And you can read her tribute to him, via Twitter, below:
Born Gus Efstratiou in 1927, Michael Constantine would start his acting career on the stage in the 1950’s, through a production of Inherit The Wind. However, it was television and film that would see him building the bulk of his resume. On TV, Constantine saw himself guest starring on iconic shows like The Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and even Law & Order. But his largest claim to fame was in the role of Principal Seymour Kaufman in the school based dramedy Room 222, which won him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1970.
Michael Constantine’s film output was just as storied, with Paul Newman’s The Hustler, Voyage of the Damned, and Stephen King’s Thinner being listed among his voluminous resume. But, if you were to ask audiences what they remembered Mr. Constantine for best, it’d have to be Gus in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And as you’d expect, fans did indeed come up to him over the years, with an offering of that miracle substance known as Windex, as he recalls below in an interview for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2:
No matter how you remember Michael Constantine, it all comes back to the fact that the man lived a full life, with a rich resume of projects. For him to have landed a role like Gus in My Big Fat Greek Wedding so late in his career is certainly a testament to his acting skills. But for the world to fondly remember him for that part, even after almost 20 years later, is the proof that it was truly a role that was always meant for him in the first place.
CinemaBlend would like to express its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Michael Constantine, in this time of mourning. May they always remember the joy that he brought to their lives, as well as those who loved to watch his work. He will truly be missed.