Olympia Dukakis, 'Moonstruck' and 'Steel Magnolias' Star, Dead at 89

Olympia Dukakis, the scene-stealing character actress who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Moonstruck, died Saturday morning. She was 89. Dukakis' other credits include Steel Magnolias, Sinatra, Joan of Arc, and More Tales of the City. She was performing in films and television shows until just before her death and appears in the 2021 movie Not to Forget.

Dukakis' brother, Apollo Dukakis, announced his sister's death on Facebook. "My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City," Apollo wrote. "After many months of failing health, she is finally at peace and with her Louis." Dukakis was married to actor Louis Zorich from 1962 until he died in 2018, and they are survived by their three children, Christina, Peter, and Stefan.

Dukakis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Greek immigrants and was the cousin of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. After studying at Boston University, she began performing on the stage in Massachusetts in the early 1960s. In 1962, she made her television debut in episodes of The Nurses and Dr. Kildare. Two years later, she made her film debut, appearing in Twice a Man and Lilith.

The actress focused mostly on stage work, but in 1987, she earned the biggest movie role of her career. Director Norman Jewison cast her as Cher's mother in Moonstruck, delivering a legendary performance that earned countless awards, including a Golden Globe and an Oscar. In the rest of the 1980s and 1990s, she was an unavoidable presence, with roles in Steel Magnolias, Working Girl, Look Who's Talking, Mighty Aphrodite, Mr. Holland's Opus, Mafia!, and Milk & Honey. In 2003, she starred in The Event, which earned her a nomination from Canada's Genie Awards.

Dukakis also earned Emmy nominations for Lucky Day, More Tales of the City, and Joan of Arc. She earned another Golden Globe nomination in 1993 for the TV movie Sinatra, in which she played Frank Sinatra's mother, Dolly Sinatra. In 2011, she starred in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Pop." In 2019, she starred in the Netflix series Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Last year, Dukakis was the subject of Harry Mavromichalis' documentary Olympia.


In recent years, Dukakis spoke about the experiences of losing someone to Alzheimer's. Her mother died of the disease in 1994, an experience close to her heart while she made Away From Her, which centers on an Alzheimer's patient played by Julie Christie. "It was almost like therapy for me," she told the Alzheimer's Association last year. "Processing all of this while working with a director and other actors allowed me to understand the characters and the situations in a way that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t experienced it myself."

In Olympia, Dukakis also traveled to the Greek island Lesbos, where she met four older women. "As I spoke to them, I got so emotional," Dukakis recalled. "I realized that if my parents hadn’t left Greece, I could have been one of those women. Their friendship seemed so deep and pure that part of me felt longing and envy. Yet, at the same time, another part of me felt deep gratitude toward my parents. If they hadn’t left Greece, I wouldn’t have had the kind of life and career that I ended up having."