Olympia Dukakis Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trivia (23)  | Personal Quotes (18)

Overview (4)

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Died in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA  (long illness)
Birth NameOlympia Mary Dukakis
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Long a vital, respected thespian of the classic and contemporary stage, this grand lady did not become a household name and sought-after film actress until age 56 when she turned in a glorious, Oscar-winning performance as Cher's sardonic mother in the romantic comedy Moonstruck (1987). Movie (and TV) fans then discovered what East coast theater-going audiences had uncovered decades before -- Olympia Dukakis was an acting treasure. Her adaptability to various ethnicities (Greek, Italian, Jewish, Eastern European, etc.), as well her chameleon-like versatility in everything from cutting edge comedy to stark tragedy, kept her in high demand for 30 years as one of Hollywood's topnotch character players.

Olympia Dukakis was born on June 20, 1931, in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Greek immigrants, Alexandra (Christos), from the Peloponnese, and Constantine S. Dukakis, from Anatolia. She majored in physical therapy at Boston University, where she graduated with a BA. Olympia practiced as a physical therapist during the polio epidemic. She later returned to her alma mater and entered the graduate program in performing arts, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Olympia found early success by distinguishing herself first on stage performing in summer stock and with several repertory and Shakespearean companies throughout the county. She made her Broadway debut as an understudy in "The Aspern Papers" at age 30, followed by very short runs in the plays "Abraham Cochrane" (1964) and "Who's Who in Hell" (1974). In 1999, she premiered a one-woman play "Rose," at the National Theatre in London and subsequently on Broadway in 2000. The play earned her an Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award nomination and she continues to tour the country with it.

Olympia was seen on the New York stage in the Roundabout Theatre's production of "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (2011), in San Francisco in A.C.T.'s production of "Vigil" (2011) and as "Prospera" in "The Tempest" (2012) at Shakespeare & Co. She has performed in over 130 productions Off-Broadway and regionally at theaters including the Public Theatre, A.C.T., Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare & Co., and the Williamstown Summer Theatre Festival, where she also served as Associate Director. She was seen again at Shakespeare & Co. in the summer of 2013 as the title role in "Mother Courage and Her Children."

Olympia married Yugoslav-American actor Louis Zorich in 1962. The New York-based couple went on to co-found The Whole Theatre Company in Montclair, New Jersey, and ran the company for 19 years (1971-1990). As actress, director, producer and teacher, she still found the time to raise their three young children. She also became a master instructor at New York University for fourteen years. She scored theater triumphs in "A Man's a Man," for which she won an Off-Broadway Obie Award in 1962; several productions of "The Cherry Orchard" and "Mother Courage"; "Six Characters in Search of an Author"; "The Rose Tattoo"; "The Seagull"; "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" (another Obie Award); and, more notably, her many performances as the title role in "Hecuba." A good portion of her successes was launched within the walls of her own theater company, which encouraged the birth of new and untried plays.

Olympia's prolific stage directing credits include many of the classics: "Orpheus Descending," "The House of Bernarda Alba," "Uncle Vanya," and "A Touch of the Poet," as well as the more contemporary ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Kennedy's Children"). She also adapted such plays as "Mother Courage" and "The Trojan Women" for the theater company. Over the duration of their marriage, she and her husband have experienced shared successes, appearing together in "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Camino Real, "The Three Sisters" and "The Seagull," among many others. Both are master interpreters of Chekhovian plays -- one of their more recent acting collaborations was in "The Chekhov Cycle" in 2003.

Making an inauspicious debut in a bit role as a mental patient in Lilith (1964), she tended to gravitate toward off-the-wall films with various offshoots of the ethnic mother. She played mom to such leads as Dustin Hoffman in John and Mary (1969), Joseph Bologna in the cult comedy Made for Each Other (1971) and Ray Sharkey in The Idolmaker (1980). Interestingly, it was her scene-stealing work on Broadway in the comedy "Social Security" (1986) that caught director Norman Jewison's eye and earned her the Moonstruck (1987) movie role. The Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress was the last of a stream of awards she earned for that part, including the Los Angeles Film Critics, Golden Globe and American Comedy awards.

From then on, silver-haired Olympia was frequently first in line for a number of cream-of-the-crop matron roles: Steel Magnolias (1989), Dad (1989), Look Who's Talking (1989), The Cemetery Club (1993), Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) and Mother (1995).

On TV, she received high praise for her work especially for her sympathetic trans-gendered landlady Anna Madrigal in the acclaimed miniseries Tales of the City (1993) and its sequels More Tales of the City (1998) (Emmy Nominee) and Further Tales of the City (2001). She was additionally seen in episodes of Bored to Death (2009), and TV movies The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000) (Judi Dench), Sinatra (1992) (Golden Globe Nominee), and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) (Emmy Nominee). This work is among more than 40 other series, mini-series and guest starring roles she accumulated over her long career. Several recurring TV roles also came her way with Center of the Universe (2004), Bored to Death (2009), Sex & Violence (2013), Forgive Me (2013), Switch (2018) and one last return to her popular Anna Madrigal role with the series sequel Tales of the City (2019).

The septuagenarian hardly slowed down and continued strongly into the millennium with top supporting film credits including The Intended (2002), The Event (2003), the title role in the mystery Charlie's War (2003), The Thing About My Folks (2005), Jesus, Mary and Joey (2005), Away from Her (2006), Day on Fire (2006), In the Land of Women (2007), The Last Keepers (2013), A Little Game (2014), 7 Chinese Brothers (2015), The Infiltrator (2016), Broken Links (2016) and Change in the Air (2018). The film Cloudburst (2011), in which she shared a co-lead with Brenda Fricker, became a critical and audience darling, winning a multitude of "Best Film" awards and several "Best Actress" honors (Seattle, San Diego) at various film festivals.

An ardent liberal and Democrat, she was the cousin of 1988 presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Moreover, she was a strong advocate of women's rights and environmental causes. Olympia published her best-selling autobiography "Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress" in 2003, an introspective chronicle full of her trademark candor and wry humor. She was also a figure on the lecture circuit covering topics as widespread as life in the theater to feminism, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

A hardcore New Yorker, she resided there following the death of her husband in 2018, and until her death in May 2021. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greek America Foundation, the National Arts Club Medal of Honor, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Family (4)

Spouse Louis Zorich (30 November 1962 - 30 January 2018)  (his death)  (3 children)
Children Christina Zorich
Peter Zorich
Stefan Zorich
Parents Constantine S. Dukakis
Alexandra Christos
Relatives Apollo Dukakis (sibling)
Michael Dukakis (cousin)

Trivia (23)

Sister of actor Apollo Dukakis.
Cousin of 1988 Democratic US presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. She gave him a shout-out when winning her Oscar in the spring of that year.
She and Anita Gillette had the same on-screen love interest twice: Larry Haines on Search for Tomorrow (1951) and Vincent Gardenia in Moonstruck (1987).
Her Best Supporting Actress Oscar statuette was stolen from her home kitchen in 1989. The burglar left only her nameplate.
Attended and graduated from Arlington High School in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Grandmother of Isabella, Sofia, Luka and Erlinda.
Studied acting with Peter Kass in Boston, and teaches master classes at studios and universities around the world.
Was three months pregnant with her daughter Christina Zorich when she completed her run of the off-Broadway play "Electra".
Daughter of Greek immigrants Constantine "Costa" (1899-1975) and Alexandra "Alec" (née Christos) Dukakis (1901-1994).
In 1949, she underwent a nose job to remove a bump at the bridge of her nose.
Worked as a physical therapist in the 1950s in order to earn enough to train as an actress.
Her favorite actress was Geraldine Page.
Returned to work six months after giving birth to her daughter Christina Zorich to begin performing on stage in "The Rose Tattoo".
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theater at 6233 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on May 24, 2013.
Was the 95th actress to receive an Academy Award; she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Moonstruck (1987) at The 60th Annual Academy Awards (1988) on April 11, 1988.
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 33, a daughter Christina Zorich on February 28, 1965. Child's father is her husband, Louis Zorich.
Gave birth to her 2nd child at age 37, a son Peter Zorich on September 19, 1968. Child's father is her husband, Louis Zorich.
Gave birth to her 3rd child at age 39, a son Stefan Zorich on February 4, 1971. Child's father is her husband, Louis Zorich.
She appeared in two films with Vincent Gardenia: Death Wish (1974) and Moonstruck (1987).
Born on the exact same date as actor James Tolkan.
Before her death, she had never retired from acting.
Has four grandchildren.

Personal Quotes (18)

So I constantly play women who are damaged and out of touch, who are seeking without knowing, or knowing without the skills to transform their lives. But then, that's really the fate of many women today.
My husband is a fall-away Catholic, but with a vengeance. He's actually more of a feminist than I am.
Sometimes I feel as if four thousand years of silencing women, of the fear of women who were burned in oil or eviscerated in front of their daughters, is imprinted deep within me and has altered my DNA.
Stories about the ongoing dramas in our lives as we age are not being told because women find it difficult to be honest about what's going on - about, for example, our heightened sexuality as we age or about living in a society that only values youth.
Thankfully, it became clear to me that when I compete, I lose my connection to the passion I have for my work.
You don't stay married for thirty-nine years because of sex or even because of love, but because your partner is a real friend to you, because they respect and regard you.
When my children were born, I didn't have them baptized because I felt baptism was about erasing Original Sin - something the Church said children got from their mother - and I absolutely refused to believe women carry Original Sin.
The rest of us are still trying to find ways to live in the world with spiritual values. Myself included. We've learned certain skills, we've learned to prevail somewhat, but we've not made it over the mountain.
Winning is everything in Hollywood.
When I was a kid, I'd kneel down at the side of my bed every night before I went to sleep, and my mother and I would say a Greek prayer to the Virgin Mary.
I think we're socialized out of being women, and then we have to find our way back to it. That's hard to do.
I talk to women's groups all over the country and see women struggling with this. The fear of not being accepted, of being different, of not having a man, all make it hard for a woman to do what she really believes is right for her.
I think we have to be careful about what we label as a prerequisite for spirituality. I don't think you have to know a lot to have a spiritual life, but knowing gives life richness.
I think it's because most of us talk one way and live another. There are a few people who truly, truly walk the talk.
Most of us are not real eager to grow, myself included. We try to be happy by staying in the status quo. But if we're not willing to be honest with ourselves about what we feel, we don't evolve.
God is not something I think about but something I experience as an energy, a Presence. I do find it easier to pray to a female Presence or an androgynous Presence.
I feel it most in my work, because there aren't roles about women who are spiritually evolving. That anyone would even write something like that, something that's worth doing, would be a miracle!
I sometimes truly despair at ever being meaningfully altered and affected by the things I claim are so important to me.

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