Olympia Dukakis, the confident, raspy-voiced actress who typically performed world-weary and worldly clever characters, and who received an Academy Award for her position as simply such a lady in “Moonstruck,” died on Saturday at her house in Manhattan. She was 89.
Her dying was introduced by her brother, the actor Apollo Dukakis, who mentioned she had been in hospice care.
Ms. Dukakis was 56 and an East Coast stage veteran of three many years when she starred in John Patrick Shanley’s “Moonstruck” (1987), a romantic comedy a couple of younger Italian-American widow, Loretta Castorini (performed by Cher), whose life is turned the other way up when she falls in love along with her fiancé’s brother (Nicolas Cage). Ms. Dukakis stole scene after scene as Rose, Loretta’s sardonic mom, who noticed the world clearly and suggested accordingly.
“Do you love him, Loretta?” she asks her daughter, referring to the uninteresting fiancé. When Loretta says no, Rose replies: “Good. When you love them, they drive you crazy, because they know they can.”
The position received Ms. Dukakis the Oscar for finest supporting actress (Cher additionally received) and a number of different prizes in 1988 — the identical yr her cousin Michael Dukakis received the Democratic presidential nomination. The award led to extra movie roles.
She performed a catty Southern widow within the largely feminine ensemble forged of “Steel Magnolias” (1989); the mom of Kirstie Alley’s character within the three “Look Who’s Talking” films (1989-93); the pot-growing transgender San Francisco landlord Anna Madrigal, from 1993 to 2019, within the 4 tv mini-series constructed from Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” tales; and Frank Sinatra’s mom, Dolly, within the 1992 tv film “Sinatra.”
Those have been removed from her first mature roles. At 40 she had performed 36-year-old Joseph Bologna’s mom in “Made for Each Other” (1971), and at 38 she was 32-year-old Dustin Hoffman’s mom in “John and Mary” (1969).
“I always played older,” she advised The New York Times in 2004. “I think it was the voice.”
She performed varied ages onstage, the place her profession started. And in a manner, she owed all of it to Nora Ephron.
Ms. Ephron noticed Ms. Dukakis in Christopher Durang’s Off Broadway play “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” and determined she needed Ms. Dukakis in Mike Nichols’s 1986 movie “Heartburn,” based mostly on Ms. Ephron’s roman à clef. Mr. Nichols then forged Ms. Dukakis in his subsequent Broadway undertaking, “Social Security.” Norman Jewison noticed “Social Security” and forged Ms. Dukakis in a movie he was about to direct: “Moonstruck.”
Despite the awards and her different display successes, Ms. Dukakis by no means gave up theater work. In 2011 she starred in an Off Broadway manufacturing of Tennessee Williams’s “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.” Charles Isherwood, reviewing her efficiency in The Times, referred to as her “macabre, hilarious and weirdly touching,” with a “bullying bravado that commands attention.” The subsequent yr she performed Prospero (Prospera, really) in “The Tempest” for Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts.
Olympia Dukakis was born on June 20, 1931, in Lowell, Mass., the older of two kids of Constantine and Alexandra (Christos) Dukakis, each Greek immigrants. Her father labored in varied settings, together with a munitions manufacturing unit, a printing enterprise and the standard management division of Lever Brothers. He additionally based an novice theater firm.
Olympia graduated from Boston University with a level in bodily remedy and practiced that occupation, touring to West Virginia, Minnesota and Texas through the worst days of the midcentury polio epidemic. Eventually she earned sufficient cash to return to B.U. to check theater.
Even earlier than she obtained her M.F.A., she threw herself into her new profession, making her stage debut in a 1956 summer time inventory manufacturing of “Outward Bound” in Maine. She moved to New York in 1959 and made her New York stage debut the subsequent yr in “The Breaking Wall” at St. Mark’s Playhouse.
Her first display look got here in 1962, on the tv collection “Dr. Kildare.” Her first film position was an uncredited one as a psychiatric affected person in “Lilith” (1964). She obtained an Obie Award in 1963 for her position as Widow Begbick, the canteen proprietor, in Bertolt Brecht’s drama “A Man’s a Man” and one other, 22 years later, for enjoying the grandmother of Mr. Durang’s character in “The Marriage of Bette and Boo.”
Along the best way she married Louis Zorich, a fellow actor who had appeared along with her in a manufacturing of “Medea” in Williamstown, Mass. Together they helped discovered the Whole Theater Company in 1973 in Montclair, N.J., the place they lived whereas citing their kids. The firm produced the likes of Chekhov, Coward and Williams for nearly twenty years. Ms. Dukakis additionally taught appearing at New York University.
Mr. Zorich died in 2018. In addition to her brother, she is survived by their three kids, Christina, Peter and Stefan Zorich; and 4 grandchildren.
In latest years she performed recurring characters on a number of tv collection, together with “Bored to Death,” through which her character had a torrid affair with Zach Galifianakis’s. In her final movie, “Not to Forget,” scheduled to open this yr, she performs a decide who sentences a millennial to take care of his grandmother.
When The Toronto Sun requested her in 2003 whether or not she was planning to retire, she answered: “From what? I love this chaotic, contradictory, loving mess that has been my life.”
She mirrored on her success in a 2001 interview with the London newspaper The Guardian. “Maybe good fortune comes to you for the same reason as bad,” she mentioned. “It’s all about understanding more: You learn a lot of things when you’re struggling, and other things when you’re what the world calls successful. Or perhaps it’s just something that happens. Some days it’s cold, and some days it’s hot.”