Olympia Dukakis, theater veteran and Oscar-winning 'Moonstruck' entertainer, passes on at 89

 Olympia Dukakis sneaks a cigarette in an uncommon second alone in her condo during the play "Vigil" at the Imprint Tighten Forum.(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times) 

Oscar victor Olympia Dukakis, the performance center veteran who rose to conspicuousness late in her vocation with vital turns in 1980s movies, for example, "Moonstruck" and "Steel Magnolias," has passed on at 89 years old. 

Dukakis, who additionally featured in "Look Who's Talking" and "Mr. Holland's Creation," kicked the bucket at her home in New York City.

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 Saturday. “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.

The longtime stage actress showcased her talent on a broader stage in 1987 as Cher’s sardonic mother in Norman Jewison’s romantic classic “Moonstruck.” She was 56 when she played meddlesome Italian matriarch Rose Castorini, whose involvement in her widowed daughter’s love life and wry concerns about her own straying husband earned Dukakis an Academy Award for supporting actress, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination.

The fun part is that people pass me on the street and yell lines from my movies: For ‘Moonstruck’ they say, ‘Your life is going down the toilet.’ Or from ‘Dad,’ they say, ‘How much are those pork chops?’ They say, ‘Do you know who you are?’ It’s real funny,” she told The Times in 1991.

Incidentally, her iconic toilet line hadn’t been in the script, but was improvised based on experiences with her own mother.

Incidentally, her iconic toilet line hadn’t been in the script, but was improvised based on experiences with her own mother.

Dukakis became a household name in 1988 by way of her Academy Award and her cousin, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, winning the Democratic nomination in the 1988 presidential election. During her Oscars acceptance speech, she stumped for him, concluding her remarks by spontaneously shouting “OK, Michael, let’s go!” as she lifted her Oscar statuette in the air like a baton.

“I felt as though I had run the first leg of a very important race and it was time to hand off that baton to Michael so that he could run the second leg,” she wrote in her 2003 autobiography, “Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress.”

Her cousin lost the election to George H.W. Bush, but the Dukakis cousins remained politically active. 

The actress, who had been “clipping coupons and shopping for bargain jeans, while working 10- to 12-hour days at the theater” before her Oscar nomination, was a lifelong arts patron and liberal activist who advocated for numerous causes, particularly women’s rights and the environment.

It was her philanthropy and heritage that enabled her name to appear on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013. The Greek America Foundation, which she long supported, came up with the $30,000 required for the application. 

Additionally, she was approached to play the matriarch in Nia Vardalos’ 2002 runaway hit “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but declined due to a scheduling conflict, she told the Chicago Tribune in 2003. She added that she “wasn’t that enthusiastic about the part.”

still devoted much of her time and resources to the theater, working on and offstage for more than 40 years.

“As an actress, I’ve made choices that led me directly away from the fame and fortune acting is supposed to bring,” she wrote.

She and Zorich founded the Charles Playhouse in Boston and the Whole Theater in Montclair, N.J., in the 1970s. They appeared together in several productions and Dukakis worked tirelessly as an actress and producer trying to keep the lights on.

“I wanted the opportunity to play parts I wouldn’t get the chance to play, to use what I felt I understood about theater, to take responsibility and not always wait for ‘the grown-ups’ to decide,” she told The Times


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