Olympia Dukakis, the veteran actress with over 200 roles to her name in stage, movie, and television production, has died. The beloved performer, perhaps best known for her Oscar-winning role in Moonstruck (1987), passed away on Saturday morning according to a Facebook post from her brother, Apollo Dukakis. No cause of death was given, but Apollo notes that Olympia had been suffering for months. She was 89 years old.
“My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City,” Apollo wrote, including an image of Olympia. “After many months of failing health she is finally at peace with her Louis.”
Apollo is referring to Louis Zorich, Olympia’s late husband, who passed away years ago; the pair had been married since 1962 and had three children together. Zorich was also an actor who was famous for playing Burt Buchman, father of Paul Reiser’s Paul Buchman, on the 1990s sitcom Mad About You. He also appeared in numerous projects with Dukakis with frequent collaborations over the years. Sadly, Zorich died at the age of 93 in 2018.
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1931, Dukakis majored in Physical Therapy and later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at Boston University. By the mid 1960s, she had switched her focus to show business, bringing her acting talents to the stage. In 1963, she earned an Obie Award for Best Actress for her Off-Broadway performance in Man Equals Man, one of more than 130 stage productions she’s worked on.
After finding success on the stage, Dukakis began to pick up roles in various movies in the 60s and 70s, including Brian De Palma’s Sisters alongside Margot Kidder; the Charles Bronson action movie Death Wish; and the classic comedy National Lampoon Goes to the Movies. During this time, the actress would also begin appearing on television, picking up roles in classic shows like Breaking Away, One of the Boys, and American Playhouse.
Perhaps Olivia’s biggest role was as Rose Castorini in Moonstruck, the acclaimed romantic comedy that also starred Cher and Nicolas Cage. Her performance brought Dukakis tremendous acclaim, resulting in a big win for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards along with a Golden Globe Award. The movie also picked up Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress for Cher.
Other movies in Dukakis’ body of work include roles in movies like Steel Magnolias, The Naked Gun 33 ⅓: The Final Insult, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and the Look Who’s Talking movies. Her television work includes such titles as The Equalizer, The Simpsons, Frasier, and Sex & Violence. She earned Emmy nominations for her roles in Joan of Arc, Sinatra, More Tales of the City, and the TV movie Lucky Day. Dukakis was also the subject of Harry Mavromichalis’ acclaimed documentary Olympia, which documented her life and career. The movie was released last year.
The actress, activist, and philanthropist was also honored with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013. It’s just one small way of keeping Dukakis’ legacy alive forever, even if the beloved actress is no longer with us. Our thoughts go out to the family at this difficult time. May she rest in peace. This news comes to us from Apollo Dukakis.
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