Olympia Dukakis, ‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Moonstruck’ actress, dies at 89

Alastair Jamieson
·2-min read
Olympia Dukakis, pictured in 2014. She has died aged 89.  (Andy Kropa /Invision/AP)
Olympia Dukakis, pictured in 2014. She has died aged 89. (Andy Kropa /Invision/AP)

Olympia Dukakis, the Steel Magnolias and Moonstruck actor, has died at 89, it was announced on Saturday.

Her brother, Apollo Dukakis, 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.”

She was 56 before she came to prominence in 1987 with an Oscar-winning performance turn in Moonstruck alongside Cher and Nicolas Cage.

A year later, her cousin Michael Dukakis was the Democratic Party presidential candidate, who went on to lose to Republican George H Bush.

Cher paid tribute to her as an “amazing actress”.

“She told me how much she loved Louis, her handsome, talented husband. RIP dear one.”

Dukakis, who was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, had yearned to be an actor from an early age and had hoped to study drama in college.

She studied physical therapy at Boston University on a scholarship from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, but the lure of the theatre eventually led her to study drama at Boston University.

In the 1960s she moved to New York and married actor Louis Zorich. During their first years of marriage, acting jobs were scarce, and Dukakis worked as a bartender, waitress and other jobs.

She and Zorich had three children — Christina, Peter and Stefan. They decided it was too hard to raise children in New York with limited income, so they moved the family to a century-old house in Montclair, a New Jersey suburb of New York.


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

Her recent projects included the 2019 TV miniseries Tales of the City and the upcoming film Not to Forgot.

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

Zorich died in January 2018 at age 93.

While her passion lay in stage, a line from her Oscar-winning performance as Rose nonetheless seemed fitting: “I just want you to know no matter what you do, you’re gonna die, just like everybody else.”

AP contributed to this report.

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