by Abb Jones
The Reelness

Oscar winning actress Olympia Dukakis has died at her home in New York City, surrounded by family and friends.

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1931 to Greek immigrants, Dukakis was known as a charismatic actress who lived by her own rules, pursuing her passion rather than fame. Initially a stage actress, she won an Obie Award in 1963 for her off-Broadway performance in Man Equals Man. A decade later, she established her own theater company in Montclair, New Jersey when she couldn’t get auditions because of her ethnic sounding name.

Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck.

After a few minor film roles, Dukakis’ big movie break came when she landed the part of Rose Castorini in the 1987 romantic comedy Moonstruck, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, a Golden Globe win and a BAFTA nomination. “That changed my whole life,” she once said, explaining that it helped her pay for her children’s college educations.

Two years later, Dukakis would solidify her place in film history, starring as the clever and hilarious Clairee Belcher in the iconic female buddy dramedy, Steel Magnolias. Among Dukakis’ other notable films: Mr. Holland’s Opus, Look Who’s Talking, Mighty Aphrodite and Cloudburst.

Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias.

Dukakis also enjoyed success in television, receiving an Emmy nomination for her role of Anna Madrigal in 1993’s Tales of the City miniseries. Her last acting performance was reprising that same role in the 2019 Netflix update, Tales of the City. In the 2019 biography about her life, Olympia, Dukakis shared her imperfections, bawdy humor and larger than life personality that made her adored by those who knew her.

Olympia Dukakis in her final TV performance, in 2019’s Tales of the City.

Dukakis’ husband, Broadway veteran Louis Zurich, died at age 93 on January 30, 2018. They are survived by three children – Christina, Peter and Stefan – all of whom work in the entertainment industry – and four grandchildren. She is the cousin of 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

Olympia Dukakis was 89.


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