May 6, 2021

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Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, known for ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Steel Magnolias,’ dies at 89

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Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, known for her roles in movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Moonstruck,” has died. She was 89. 

Allison Levy her agent at Innovative Artists confirmed to the Associated Press that Dukakis died Saturday morning in her home in New York City. A cause of death was not immediately released.

Dukakis got her start in acting on the stage, having performed in several productions on Broadway including “The Aspern Papers,” “Who’s Who in Hell” and the one-woman show “Rose.” 

Her roles on the silver screen, often depicting matriarchal characters, are what earned her an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. In the 1987 rom-com “Moonstruck,” Dukakis played Rose Castorini — the mother of a widowed bookkeeper in Brooklyn, Loretta Castorini (Cher). She landed both an Oscar trophy and a Golden Globe for best supporting actress for her role. 

More:Cher talks activism, ‘Moonstruck’ and her pitch for ‘Mamma Mia 3’: Meryl Streep ‘as a ghost’

FILE - In this April 11, 1988 file photo, Olympia Dukakis holds her Oscar at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angles after being honored at the 60th Academy Awards as best supporting actress for her role in "Moonstrck." Olympia Dukakis, the veteran stage and screen actress whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck,” has died. She was 89. (AP Photo/Lennox Mcleondon, File) ORG XMIT: NY950

She referred to her 1988 win as “the year of the Dukakii” because it was also the year Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, her cousin, was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. At the ceremony, she held her Oscar high over her head and called out: “OK, Michael, let’s go!”

“My ambition wasn’t to win the Oscar,” she commented after her “Moonstruck” win. “It was to play the great parts.”

She was also known for her role as Clairee Belcher in Herbert Ross’ 1989 “Steel Magnolias” and starred in more films like “Look Who’s Talking” and “Working Girl.” 

Dukakis also had a long list of TV credits including roles like Anna Madrigal on the Emmy-nominated series “Tales of the City” (1993) and its sequels “More Tales of the City” and “Further Tales of the City,” based on the series of novels by Armistead Maupin. She also starred in the CBS series “Center of the Universe” as Marge Barnett.

More:‘Steel Magnolias’ is 30! Go inside Julia Roberts’ lavish, pink-drenched movie wedding

Members of the Hollywood community took to Twitter on Saturday to remember Dukakis’ life and legacy.

Fellow Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis wrote: RIP Olympia Dukakis…the consummate actor. You made all around you step up their game. A joy to work with. Rest well. “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Dukakis’ “Moonstruck” co-star Cher also shared a touching tribute.

“Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was That Of a Suffering Wife, We (laughing emoji) ALL The Time. She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis, Her ‘Handsome Talented, Husband,’ ” she tweeted. “I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One.”

“Star Trek” actor George Takei wrote: “Olympia Dukakis has departed our company. We were Moonstruck by her, as she told us great Tales of the City. A true Steel Magnolia within a more common forest.”

“Some movies you watch because of an actor in it,” comedian Christopher Titus wrote. “Olympia Dukakis was one of those actors, RIP.”

The Academy also tweeted a tribute to the Oscar winner: “Olympia Dukakis brought warmth, humor and wit to the stage and screen for almost 60 years, including a stellar run of unforgettable roles in ‘Steel Magnolias’ ‘Tales of the City’ and ‘Moonstruck,’ for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She will be missed.”

Contributing: The Associated Press


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