Olympia Dukakis, a character actress best known for her Oscar-winning supporting turn in Norman Jewison’s “Moonstruck” and for her role as the wealthy widow in “Steel Magnolias,” has died. She was 89.
Dukakis’ brother, Apollo Dukakis, confirmed her death in a Facebook post, writing: “My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis.” The late-blooming star also was known for her turn as Clairee Belcher, a woman of fiber and the elegant widowed friend of Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine), in Herbert Ross’ Steel Magnolias (1989), and she portrayed a personnel director in Working Girl (1988) and a principal in Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). Away from the big screen, Dukakis taught drama at NYU for more than 15 years and was a founding member of two regional theaters: The Charles Playhouse in Boston and the Whole Theater in Montclair, New Jersey.
After years toiling on the stage, Dukakis, then in her mid-fifties, turned heads as the nagging Sicilian wife and mother Rose Castorini in Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck (1987). She also won a Golden Globe and top honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review for her career-defining performance.