Darlene Cates, who starred as the housebound mother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape has died. Cates died in her sleep Sunday morning at her home in Forney, Texas. She was 69.
Her daughter Sherri Cates Morgan announced her mother’s death on Facebook (see below). In the announcement, Morgan wrote “We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father.”
Cates is best known for her role of Bonnie Grape, the housebound, overweight mother in the 1993 film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Cates was offered the role by author and screenwriter Peter Hedges who saw a tape of Cates on a 1985 episode of Sally Jessy Raphael entitled “Too Heavy to Leave Their House”. On the show, she discussed her battle with obesity and how it had affected her life.
After Gilbert Grape, Cates went on to appear in TV series Picket Fences and Touched By An Angel. She also had a small role in the 2001 film Wolf Girl.