Olympia Dukakis, ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Steel Magnolias’ actor, dies aged 89

The Oscar-winning actor was suffering from ill health before her death

Olympia Dukakis, the actor known for her roles in Moonstruck, Steel Magnolias and Tales of the City, has died aged 89.

According to the BBC, Dukakis’ death was announced by her brother Apollo on Facebook, who said she died on May 1 following ill health. AP also reports her death was confirmed by her agent.

“My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her [husband] Louis,” Apollo wrote.

My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City.After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis.

Posted by Apollo Dukakis on Saturday, May 1, 2021

Dukakis was born in 1931 in Massachusetts to southern Greek immigrant parents. She studied physical therapy and performing arts at university, starting her acting career on the stage and eventually going on to win an Obie Award for her performance in A Man’s a Man in the ’60s.

“I did not become an actor in order to become famous or rich. I became an actor so I could play the great parts,” she said.

Dukakis’ breakthrough screen role was as Rose Castorini in Moonstruck in the late ’80s, for which she won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also earned a BAFTA nomination for the role.

“All of the attention I was getting was lovely, of course, but I was more than a little confused about why it had come at this point, and with this role, which, to my mind, was not the greatest part I had ever played,” she said.

Other notable performances include her role in the biographical series Sinatra as Dolly Sinatra, and as Mother Babette in the 1999 miniseries Joan of Arc.

More recently, Dukakis reprised her role as Anna Madrigal for the one-season Netflix revival of Tales of the City in 2019. The original franchise, based on the novels by Armistead Maupin, aired between 1993-2001.

A documentary based on her life and career, directed by Harry Mavromichalis, premiered a year prior at the Doc NYC film festival.

A number of Dukakis’ collaborators and admirers have shared their condolences for the late actor, including Cher, who played Loretta Castorini in Moonstruck.

“Olympia Dukakis was an amazing, Academy Award-winning actress. Olympia played my mom in Moonstruck, and even though her part was that of a suffering wife, we [laughed] all the time,” the singer said.

“She would tell me how much she loved Louis, her ‘handsome, talented husband’. I talked to her 3wks ago.”

Laura Linney, who acted alongside Dukakis throughout Tales of the City, said “she had more life in her little finger than most have in their entire beings over five lifetimes”.

“She brought truth right up to your face and dared you to look away. She was an amazing woman, part teacher, part Cassandra, part Oracle, part radical artist. It was impossible to be in her presence and not learn something. Rest, you Greek Diamond. You are deeply loved. And Thank You.”