Olympia Dukakis, the husky, confident voice actress who has often played characters weary of the world and worldly wisdom, and who won an Oscar for her role as such a woman, the Italian mother. American in “Moonstruck”, died on Saturday in New York. She was 89 years old.
His brother, actor Apollo Dukakis, announced the death on Facebook.
Ms. Dukakis was 56 years old and a three-decade veteran of the East Coast scene when she starred in “Moonstruck” (1987), a romantic comedy about a young widow, Loretta (played by Cher), whose life is upset when she falls. love with her fiancé’s brother (Nicolas Cage). Ms. Dukakis flew scene after scene as Rose Castorini, the sardonic mother of Cher’s character, who saw the world clearly and advised accordingly.
“Do you like her, Loretta?” she asks her daughter, referring to the drab groom. When Loretta says no, Rose replies, “Good. When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can. “
The role won Ms. Dukakis the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (Cher also won) and a host of other awards in 1988 – the same year her cousin Michael Dukakis won the Democratic nomination for president. The price led to more roles in the movies.
She played a nasty Southern Widow in the predominantly female ensemble cast of “Steel Magnolias” (1989); the mother of the character of Kirstie Alley in the three “Look Who’s Talking” films (1989-93); San Francisco transgender owner Anna Madrigal from 1993 to 2019 in four TV mini-series based on Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” stories; and Frank Sinatra’s mother, Dolly, in the 1992 TV movie “Sinatra”.
These were far from his first mature roles. At 40, she had played the mother of 36-year-old Joseph Bologna in “Made for Each Other” (1971), and at 38, she was the mother of 32-year-old Dustin Hoffman in “John and Mary” ( 1969).
“I always played older,” she told the New York Times in 2004. “I think it was the voice.”
She performed at different ages on stage, where her career began. And in a way, she owed it all to Nora Ephron.
Mrs. Ephron saw Mrs. Dukakis in Christopher Durang’s Off Broadway play “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” and decided that she wanted Mrs. Dukakis in the 1986 Mike Nichols film “Heartburn”, based on Mrs. Ephron. Mr. Nichols then chose Ms. Dukakis in his next Broadway project, “Social Security.” Norman Jewison saw “Social Security” and played Mrs. Dukakis in a film he was about to direct: “Moonstruck”.
Despite the accolades and her other screen successes, Ms. Dukakis never gave up theater work. In 2011, she starred in an Off Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore”. Charles Isherwood, reviewing her performance in The Times, called it “macabre, hilarious and strangely touching”, with “attention-grabbing bullying bravado.” The following year, she played Prospero (Prospera, actually) in “The Tempest” for Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts.
Olympia Dukakis was born on June 20, 1931 in Lowell, Mass., The eldest of two children to Constantine and Alexandra (Christos) Dukakis, both Greek immigrants. His father worked in a variety of settings, including an ammunition factory, a printing house, and the quality control department of Lever Brothers. He also founded an amateur theater company.
Olympia graduated from Boston University with a degree in physiotherapy and practiced this profession, traveling to West Virginia, Minnesota and Texas during the worst days of the mid-century polio epidemic. Eventually, she earned enough money to return to BU to study acting.
Even before receiving her Masters of Fine Arts, she embarked on her new career, making her stage debut in a 1956 summer production of “Outward Bound” in Maine. She moved to New York in 1959 and made her New York stage debut the following year in “The Breaking Wall” at St. Mark’s Playhouse.
His first screen appearance was in 1962, in the television series “Dr. Kildare. Her first movie role was an uncredited role as a psychiatric patient in “Lilith” (1964). She received an Obie Award in 1963 for her role as widow Begbick, the owner of the canteen, in Bertolt Brecht’s drama “A man is a man” and another, 22 years later, for playing the grandmother. of the character of Mr. Durang in “The marriage of Bette and Boo. “
Along the way, she married Louis Zorich, another actor who had starred with her in a production of “Medea” in Williamstown, Mass. Together, they helped found the Whole Theater Company in 1973 in Montclair, NJ, where they lived while raising their children. The company produced Chekhov, Coward and Williams for nearly two decades. Ms. Dukakis has also taught theater at New York University.
Mr Zorich died in 2018. Complete information on the survivors was not immediately available.
In recent years, she has played recurring characters in several television series, including “Bored to Death,” in which her character had a hot affair with Zach Galifianakis. In her latest film, “Do not forget”, which is scheduled to open this year, she plays a judge who condemns a millennium to take care of his grandmother.
When asked by the Toronto Sun in 2003 if she was planning to retire, she replied, “From what? I love this chaotic, contradictory and loving mess that has been my life.
She spoke of her success in a 2001 interview with London-based The Guardian. “Maybe luck comes to you for the same reason as bad,” she said. “It’s about understanding better: you learn a lot of things when you have a hard time, and other things when you are what the world calls success. Or maybe it’s just something happening. Some days it’s cold and some days it’s hot.