Olympia Dukakis, who won an Oscar for her supporting role in the 1987 hit Moonstruck and also starred in Steel Magnolias, Away From Her, the three Look Who’s Talking films and Mr. Holland’s Opus, died today at her home in New York City. She was 89 and had been in ill health for some time.
“My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City,” wrote her brother Apollo, who confirmed her death on his Facebook page. “After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her [husband] Louis [Zorich].” The cause of death has yet to be determined.
Her other film credits include Over the Hill (1992), I Love Trouble (1994) and Picture Perfect (1997).
Her television credits include the 1993 transgender drama Tales of the City and its 1998 sequel, which earned her an Emmy nomination. Dukakis also appeared in Netflix’s 2019 revival, titled Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
Dukakis was a theater veteran who struck gold in the film business later in life. She was 56 when she played Cher’s sardonic mother, Rose Castorini, in Norman Jewison’s classic romantic comedy Moonstruck. Her portrayal of a woman overly involved her daughter’s love life earned her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination.
1988 was a year of prominence beyond the Oscars, as Dukakis’s cousin, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, was the Democratic nominee for president. She stumped for him during her Oscars acceptance speech, shouting “OK, Michael, let’s go!”
A lifelong activist and philanthropist, Dukakis earned a star on the the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013.
Born on June 20, 1931, in Lowell, MA, she was the daughter of immigrants from southern Greece. That upbringing shaped her life, leading her to take to the stage as a means of expression.
She graduated from Boston University with a degree in in physical therapy and a master’s in performing arts. She then began her career in New York City. She made her debut in The Aspern Papers in 1962. That same year, she married actor-producer Louis Zorich, famous for his hit NBC comedy Mad About You decades later. They had three children.
In 1963, she won an Obie Award for A Man’s a Man, and then a second two years later in The Marriage of Bette and Boo.
Her work in the Broadway comedy Social Security playing Marlo Thomas’s mother was her ticket into filmdom.
She and Zorich founded the Charles Playhouse in Boston and the Whole Theater in Montclair, N.J. in the 1970s, appearing together in several productions. She also taught drama at New York University, while teaching at the American Conservatory Theater, and serving on its Board of Trustees.
No information was immediately available on memorial plans.