Olympia Dukakis, Oscar-Winning Star Of Moonstruck And Steel Magnolias, Dies Aged 89

·Entertainment Editor, HuffPost UK
·3-min read

Oscar-winning actor Olympia Dukakis, has died aged 89.

The veteran stage and screen star was best known for her roles as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy Moonstruck and as Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias.

Allison Levy, her agent at Innovative Artists, said that Olympia died on Saturday at her home in New York City. Her cause of death was not given.

Olympia’s brother, Apollo Dukakis, also announced her death in a post on Facebook, writing: “My beloved sister ... passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health she is finally at peace.”

Olympia Dukakis has died at the age of 89 (Photo: Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images)
Olympia Dukakis has died at the age of 89 (Photo: Jamie McCarthy via Getty Images)

Olympia rose to prominence in 1987 when she was 56, following her role as Rose in Moonstruck.

She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the film, while Cher took home the trophy for Best Actress.

Olympia won her Oscar through a surprising chain of circumstances, beginning with author Nora Ephron’s recommendation that she play Meryl Streep’s mother in the film version of Ephron’s book Heartburn.

She got the role, but her scenes were cut from the film. To make it up to her, director Mike Nichols cast her in his hit play Social Security. Director Norman Jewison saw her in that role and cast her in Moonstruck.

Her Oscar victory kept film roles coming, playing Kirstie Alley’s mother in Look Who’s Talking and its sequel Look Who’s Talking Too, the sardonic widow in Steel Magnolias and the overbearing wife of Jack Lemmon (and mother of Ted Danson) in Dad.

But the stage had been her first love.

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

Olympia won her Oscar in 1988 (Photo: John T. Barr via Getty Images)
Olympia won her Oscar in 1988 (Photo: John T. Barr via Getty Images)

She accomplished that in such New York productions as Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage And Her Children, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo.

For two decades she ran the Whole Theatre Company in Montclair, New Jersey, specialising in classic dramas.

Olympia was married to actor Louis Zorich for 56 years prior to his death in 2018, and they had three children, Christina, Peter and Stefan.

Following news of her death, Cher was among those who paid tribute, labelling her an “amazing” actress.

She added: “Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was That Of a Suffering Wife, We [laughed] 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.”

Other tributes were shared online...

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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