Veteran stage and screen actor Olympia Dukakis, whose pairing for her maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck”, died. She was 89 years old.
According to his agent in innovative artists, Alison Levy, Dukis died at his home in New York City on Saturday morning. The cause of death was not immediately released, but her family said in a statement that she had been in failing health for months.
Dukakis won the Oscar through a surprising series of circumstances, beginning with the recommendation of writer Nora Efron, she plays Meryl Streep’s mother in the film version of Efron’s book “Heartburn”. Dukakis got the role, but his scenes were cut from the film. To make it, director Mike Nichols cast him in his hit drama “Social Security”. Director Norman Jewison saw her in that role and cast her in “Moonstruck”.
Dukakis won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Cher took home the Best Actress trophy.
He called the 1988 victory the “Year of the Ducasie”, as it was also a Massachusetts village. Michael Dukis, his cousin, was the Democratic Party presidential candidate. At the ceremony, he placed his Oscar on top of his head and said: “Okay, Michael, let’s go!”
In 1989, his Oscar statue was stolen from Duchess’s New Jersey home.
Her husband actor Louis Jorich at the time said, “We are not pretending.” “We put Oscar in the kitchen.”
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Dukakis had longed to become an actor from an early age and hoped to study drama in college. Her Greek immigrant parents insisted that she pursue a more practical education, so she studied physical therapy at Boston University on a scholarship from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
After earning his bachelor’s degree, he worked at a mindless hospital for infectious diseases in Marmet, West Virginia, and at the hospital.
But theater greed eventually led him to study drama at Boston University.
It was a shocking change, she told an interviewer in 1988, noting that she had departed from the quiet world of science, where students regularly shouted at teachers.
“I thought they were all crazy,” she said. “It was amazing.”
However, her first graduate school performance was a disaster, but when she sat wordless on stage.
After a teacher helped her recover from stage fright, she began working in summer stock theaters. In 1960, she made her Off-Broadway debut and two years later had a small part in “The Aspern Papers” on Broadway.
After three years with the Boston Regional Theater, Dukis relocated to New York and married Zorich.
During the first years of their marriage, acting jobs were few, and Duakis worked as a bartender, waitress, and other jobs.
He and Jorich had three children – Christina, Peter and Stephen. They decided that raising children in limited-income New York was too difficult, so they moved the family to a century-old home in Montclair, a New Jersey suburb of New York.
Her Oscar win kept her maternal prime roles. She was the sardonic widow and superb wife of Jack Lemon (and Ted Danson’s mother) in “Look Who’s Talking” and its sequel “Look Who’s Talking Two,” in “Steel Magnolias”.
His recent projects included the 2019 TV miniseries “Tales of the City” and the upcoming film “Not to Forget”.
But Charan was her first love.
“My ambition was not to win an Oscar,” he remarked after his “Moonstruck” victory. “It was meant to play great parts.”
He said he was versed in New York productions as Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Curse and His Children”, Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day Journey in Night” and Tennessee Williams’s “The Rose Tattoo”.