LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which made Nia Vardalos a star, also raised veteran actor Michael Constantine's profile -- and may have boosted sales of Windex.
By now, the story has been well-told of how actress Rita Wilson and her husband, Tom Hanks, turned Vardalos' one-woman show into a movie -- for $5 million -- which has gone on to gross more than $236 million at the U.S. box office. Still playing after 41 weeks in release, the romantic comedy has risen to No. 29 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters.
When the CBS TV series based on the movie premieres next month, an even wider audience will get to know the family that Vardalos created around her character, a young Greek-American woman in Chicago coping with conflicting pressures to be modern even as she honors her ethnic origin and traditions.
The movie cast -- including Vardalos, Constantine, Gia Carides, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin -- received a Screen Actors Guild nomination this week for outstanding performance by a cast of a theatrical motion picture. All but Corbett will be in the TV show, re-titled "My Big Fat Greek Life." Instead of Corbett, Steven Eckholdt ("Providence," "Melrose Place") will play the WASP-ish man who wins the young woman's heart.
Constantine returns as Gus Portokalos, the young woman's father -- a confirmed traditionalist who applies Windex as a cure-all for any physical ailment and delights in explaining to anyone who will listen that every word has a Greek root.
The 75-year-old Hollywood veteran received a Golden Satellite Award for his performance from the International Press Academy. Publicists for the movie have been lobbying on his behalf for an Oscar nomination, but the supporting actor category is as intensely competitive as ever this year.
Constantine conceded in an interview with United Press International that an Oscar nomination might not be in the cards for him, but he said the movie's popular success is reward enough.
"If it was up to the American public," he said, "every one of us (in 'Greek Wedding') would get an award and the picture would get an Oscar."
Best known before now for his Emmy-winning performance as principal Seymour Kaufman in the ABC TV classroom drama "Room 222" (1969-74), Constantine was a consistent presence on American TV from the 1950s through the 1980s.
He appeared in early episodes of "The Untouchables," "The Twilight Zone" and "Perry Mason." Later, he guest-starred on such TV classics as "Kojak" and "Magnum, P.I." More recently, he appeared in episodes of "Murder, She Wrote," "Law & Order" and "Judging Amy."
His movie resume includes "The Hustler" (1961), "Don't Drink the Water" (1969) and "Thinner" (1996).
Constantine said the success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" came at a time when he was enjoying a less active acting career -- actors rarely use the word "retirement" -- in which he spent much of his time writing and traveling.
"I had a very good life before this whole thing came along," he said. "I started writing 10 years ago, and I enjoyed my privacy."
He said he enjoyed especially being able to write in public places, but that's over.
"Now ... there is not enough privacy, but I figure the fuss will die down and I'll have my privacy," he said, "and meantime they insist on paying me enough money not to be too bothered by it."
Since TV naturally reaches a broader audience than all but the biggest blockbusters, Constantine can probably expect even less privacy after Feb. 24, when the new show is scheduled to premiere. As it is, he said, the Windex gag in the movie has already taken on a life of its own -- one woman told him her teenage son was spraying Windex on his zits.
"I can't walk into a room," he said, "without people asking me, 'Did you bring the Windex?'"
For the record, Constantine said he does not carry Windex around with him everywhere he goes.
"The only thing I keep it handy for is washing windows," he said, "and I don't do windows."
Of all the pleasures the movie hit has brought Constantine, he said he gets a "special little kick" out of marketing specialists being proved wrong in their evaluation of the movie's commercial worth.
"They said don't expect much, because the star is over 30, and it will only appeal to some ethnic people and blah-blah-blah," he said. "And they were proven wrong on every count."
Constantine said the movie confounded the experts who he said want to control every aspect of American culture based only on what they think will sell.
"They don't know how to deal with the fact that people like something good," he said. "The hell with demographics. If it's good, people like it. If it stinks, they don't."
The first episode of "My Big Fat Greek Life" is scheduled to tape on Friday.