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Oscar-winning ‘Moonstruck’ actress Olympia Dukakis dies at 89

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): Olympia Dukakis, who won an Oscar for her performance as a sardonic, middle-aged mother who advises her headstrong daughter on matters of love in the 1987 romantic film comedy Moonstruck, died on Saturday at age 89.

Dukakis, born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on June 20, 1931, passed away at her New York City home on Saturday morning after months of failing health, according to her agent, Allison Levy. Her daughter, Christina Zorich, was by her side.

Dukakis, the Massachusetts-born daughter of Greek immigrants, worked for decades as a stage, TV, and film actor before rocketing to fame at age 56 playing the mother of Cher’s character in Moonstruck.

Dukakis built on that with roles in films including Look Who’s Talking (1989), Steel Magnolias (1989) director Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995).

Dukakis, a master of deadpan humor, also was nominated for Emmy awards for TV roles in 1991, 1998, and 1999.

In the 1970s, she co-founded the Whole Theater in the New York City suburb of Montclair, New Jersey, after moving there with her husband, fellow actor Louis Zorich.

“Olympia Dukakis was an Amazing, Academy Award-winning actress,” actress and singer Cher wrote on Twitter. “… I talked to her 3 weeks ago. RIP dear one.”

Another Oscar winner, Viola Davis, called Dukakis “the consummate actress” on Twitter. “You made all around you step up their game. A joy to work with. Rest well.”

Olympia Dukakis embraced liberal views, advocating for causes including women’s rights, gay rights, and the environment.

Referring to becoming a movie star at an age when many actresses have a hard time finding good roles, Dukakis told the Guardian newspaper in 2012, “Who knows how that happened? Chance, fate, or a bit of both. But I’m very glad I did Moonstruck. It meant that I woke up the next day and was finally able to pay the bills.”

“The fun part is that people pass me on the street and yell lines from my movies,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1991.