Olympia Dukakis, the character actress who found fame overnight after putting in an Oscar-winning supporting turn in Moonstruck, has unfortunately given her final performance. The co-star of Steel Magnolias and three-time Emmy nominee has died at age 89.
The death of Olympia Dukakis was first announced on Facebook (via Yahoo News) by her brother Apollo Dukakis, who wrote, “y 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 passing of Dukakis was also confirmed to Associated Press by her agent Allison Levy.
The career of Olympia Dukakis on screen began in the 1960s with bit parts in shows like The Doctors and the Nurses and Dr. Kildare, but she soon jumped to the big screen with small roles in movies such as the short Twice a Man and John and Mary. Her work in movies increased significantly throughout the 1970s with small roles in movies like Made for Each Other, The Rehearsal, and Death Wish, but she also returned to TV with a role in the Great Performances production of The Seagull and The Doctors.
The 1980s saw Dukakis star in movies like The Idolmaker and Walls of Glass, TV shows such as Search for Tomorrow and The Equalizer, and the TV movie One of the Boys. But in 1987 came her big break with the Oscar-winning supporting performance in Moonstruck alongside Cher and Nicolas Cage. When she won the award, she declared 1988 as “the year of the Dukakii” because it was also the year Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, her cousin, was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. But it’s safe to say that things went better for Olympia than Michael.
After her Oscar win, Dukakis could be spotted playing similar kind of mother-type characters in Look Who’s Talking and the two sequels that followed, as well as the wealthy widow in Steel Magnolias. She also appeared in The Cemetery Club, I Love Trouble, Mighty Aphrodite, and Mr. Holland’s Opus. Dukakis also had an uncredited role as herself in the spoof sequel The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
Though Dukakis only earned one Oscar nomination and win, she was nominated for three Emmys in the 1990s, two supporting actress turns in the TV movie Lucky Day and the miniseries Joan of Arc, and a lead actress nomination for More Tales of the City, in which she reprised her miniseries role that she originated in Tales of the City in 1993. She would play the same role again in Further Tales of the City in 2001 and in the revival Tales of the City in 2019.
Other roles included TV movies The Pentagon Wars and The Last of the Blonde Bombshells, as well as TV show appearances in Touched by an Angel, The Simpsons, Frasier, Bored to Death, Numb3rs, and Law & Order: SVU. And Dukakis kept working in movies with The Infiltrator, Change is in the Air, The Last Keepers, and A Little Game.
It appears we’ll see Dukakis’ last performance as a judge in the upcoming movie Not to Forget. The actress was slated to appear in a movie called You Can Call Me Eve and and rumored to appear in a production called The Secret of the Gods, but the former was in pre-production and the latter had only been announced, so we likely won’t see her appearing in those films.
If you’d like to dig into the career of Olympia Dukakis, there’s an entire documentary about the actress and her surprising rise to fame. Learn more about it over here. Our thoughts go our to her family and friends during this difficult time. Rest in peace.