Olympia Dukakis, the Oscar–winning actress who brought beloved roles like Rose Castorini in Moonstruck and Clairee in Steel Magnolias to life, has died at the age of 89. According to a Facebook post made by her brother, Dukakis died in New York City on Saturday, May 1. He wrote, “After many months of failing health, she is finally at peace and with Louis.” No official cause of death has been released.
Dukakis began her acting career in the theater, playing regional festivals before moving to Off Broadway, where she won an Obie Award for her performance as Widow Leocadia Begbik in Man Equals Man in 1963. Dukakis married fellow stage actor Louis Zorich in 1992, and together they went on to co-found the Whole Theater Company in Montclair, New Jersey, where she served as artistic director. Dukakis went on to receive accolades on Broadway for her performances in plays including Social Security, directed by Mike Nichols, in 1986, and the one-woman play Rose in 2000.
But to many, Dukakis was best known for her work in film and television. In 1987, she won the Academy Award for Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of the strong, sympathetic matriarch Rose Castorini in Moonstruck. Two years later, Dukakis stood out and shone as Clairee Belcher in the ensemble Steel Magnolias. One of Dukakis’s most memorable roles was also one of her last: In 1993, Dukakis earned accolades for originating the role of Anna Madrigal in Armistead Maupin’s groundbreaking PBS miniseries Tales of the City. She would revive the role in the show’s 1998 and 2001 follow-ups, as well as in Netflix’s Tales of the City revival in 2019. On Twitter, colleagues and fans are remembering her as a talented actress, a friend, and a teacher.
Cher, who worked with Dukakis on Moonstruck, paid her respects on Twitter, along with Bradley Whitford, who remembered Dukakis as “an actor’s actor.” Viola Davis, who co-starred with Dukakis in 1998’s The Pentagon Wars, called her “the consummate actor” and “a joy to work with.” Marlee Matlin added, “Olympia Dukakis was pure class and tons of talent.”