Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis died Saturday in New York City, her family has announced. She was 89.
Dukakis' brother Apollo wrote on Facebook Saturday that she had passed away after "many months of failing health." Her representative, Allison Levy, confirmed her death to the Washington Post.
Born to Greek immigrants in Lowell, Mass., Dukakis grew up in the Boston suburbs of Somerville and Arlington and worked as a stage actress for decades -- playing a range of roles and running a regional theater on a shoestring budget -- before becoming a breakout movie star in the 1980s.
"I did not become an actor in order to become famous or rich. I became an actor so I could play the great parts," she said.
At 56, Dukakis won a best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of the tart-tongued Rose Castorini in 2987's Moonstruck. The film was also nominated for best picture, and Cher won an Oscar for her performance in the lead role; screenwriter John Shanley won an Academy Award for the script.
In "Tales of the City," a miniseries based on Armistead Maupin's books that aired in the 1990s, Dukakis played a bohemian San Francisco landlady who shares marijuana with her tenants and eventually reveals that she is transgender.
"The fun part is that people pass me on the street and yell lines from my movies: For 'Moonstruck' they say, 'Your life is going down the toilet.' Or from 'Dad,' they say, 'How much are those pork chops?' They say, 'Do you know who you are?' It's real funny," she told The L.A. Times in 1991.
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She is said to have improvised the toilet line.
During her acceptance speech at the 1988 Academy Awards ceremony, Dukakis gave a shout-out to her cousin Michael, a frontrunner in the Democratic primaries who would formally secure his party's nomination a few months later.
"OK, Michael, let's go!" she shouted.
"I felt as though I had run the first leg of a very important race and it was time to hand off that baton to Michael so that he could run the second leg," she wrote in her 2003 autobiography, "Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress."
Michael Dukakis would lose the general election to President George H.W. Bush, but both cousins remained politically active, with Olympia acting as a patron for the arts and an advocate for liberal causes that included women's rights and the environment.
She also taught acting and continued to act into her 80s. According to IMDB, she appears in a 2021 film called Not to Forget, which is listed as being in post-production.
"I love transforming," Dukakis told the Globe and Mail in 2013. "It's the fun part of acting. It's the easy part, actually. But it's getting harder and harder for actors to do. You have to have a look, it has to be current, the body has to look this way. This is the enemy of transformation."
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