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Oscar-winning Moonstruck actress Olympia Dukakis has died

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Oscar-winning Moonstruck actress Olympia Dukakis has died
May 2, 2021 by: Gaius Bolling

Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, who took home the statuette for her role in MOONSTRUCK, died Saturday in New York City. She was 89 years old. The news of her passing was confirmed by her brother on Facebook.

“After many months of failing health, she is finally at peace with her Louis,” her brother Apollo Dukakis posted on Facebook. Her agent, Allison Levy, also confirmed her death to various media outlets. Dukakis had her daughter Christina Zorich by her side when she died at her home on Saturday. The family released the following statement after her passing that read “Her brother Apollo Dukakis, her sons Stefan and Peter Zorich, and four grandchildren thank you for your love, prayers, and kind remembrances during this difficult time.” Louis is a reference to her late husband who died in 2018.

Dukakis had a stage career that spanned decades but she was best known for her portrayal of Rose Castorini, the nosy-but-sensitive Italian mother in the 1987 film Moonstruck. Dukakis’ scene-stealing turn in the film, in which she co-starred with Cher, earned Dukakis a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Both actresses took home the gold that night as Cher won for Best Actress for her role in the film. Cher paid tribute to her former co-star in the following Twitter post below:

Olympia Dukakis Was an Amazing,Academy Award Winning Actress.Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was
That Of a Suffering Wife, We????ALL The Time.She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis,Her”Handsome Talented,Husband”.I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One pic.twitter.com/RcCZaeKFmz

— Cher (@cher) May 1, 2021

The actress was also known for another scene-stealing role in 1989’s Steel Magnolias in which she played Clairee Belcher. Dukakis’ character encourages a grieving M’Lynn Eatenton, portrayed by Sally Field, to slay Shirley MacLaine’s character in one of the film’s most memorable scenes. Fans of that film will never forget her saying “Knock her lights out, M’Lynn!”

Dukakis had a very versatile and compelling rise to fame. The actress appeared in more than 130 off-Broadway productions, as well as Broadway plays including The Aspern Papers, Abraham Cochrane, and her one-woman play Rose. Dukakis also branched out to television and that included playing a transgender landlady named Anna Madrigal in the 1993 miniseries Tales of the City. Dukakis would reprise the role three more times in the sequels More Tales of the City, Further Tales of the City, and 2019’s Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, which was her last television role. 

Dukakis was a native of Massachusetts and the daughter of Greek immigrants. If you are unfamiliar with her film work, her last name might ring a political bell. Dukakis was the first cousin of former state Gov. Michael Dukakis, who became the Democratic nominee for president in 1988. He would ultimately lose to then Vice-President George H.W. Bush.

Olympia Dukakis is survived by her three children and siblings. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends, and fans during this difficult. Also, do yourself a favor, try to watch Moonstruck as soon as you can. She truly gives a memorable performance in that film that definitely leaves a lasting impression long after the movie is over.

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