SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON/ NewsNation Now) – Olympia Dukakis, the Oscar-winning ‘Moonstruck’ actress has passed away.
She was 89-years-old.
Allison Levy her agent at Innovative Artists said Saturday that Dukakis died Saturday morning in her home in New York City. A cause of death was not immediately released.
Olympia’s brother, Apollo Dukakis, also confirmed the news of the death in a Facebook post Saturday.
“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.” Apollo wrote.
Dukakis won her Oscar through a surprising chain of circumstances, beginning with author Nora Ephron’s recommendation that she play Meryl Streep’s mother in the film version of Ephron’s book “Heartburn.” Dukakis got the role, but her scenes were cut from the film. To make it up to her, director Mike Nichols cast her in his hit play “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 trophy for best actress.
She referred to her 1988 win as “the year of the Dukakii” because it was also the year Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, her cousin, was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. At the ceremony, she held her Oscar high over her head and called out: “OK, Michael, let’s go!”
Dukakis had yearned to be an actress from an early age and had hoped to study drama in college. Her Greek immigrant parents insisted 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 her bachelor’s degree, she worked at an understaffed hospital in Marmet, West Virginia, and at the Hospital for Contagious Diseases in Boston.
But the lure of the theater eventually led her to study drama at Boston University.
It was a shocking change, she told an interviewer in 1988, noting that she had gone from the calm world of science to one where students routinely screamed at the teachers.