Olympia Dukakis was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on June 20, 1931.
She is one of those character actresses who infallibly lends a touch of class to whatever picture she’s in. Despite her extraordinary dignity and class, she is able to make even the most outrageous character believable. Though she is well regarded in film, Dukakis has spent the bulk of her distinguished career on-stage as an actress and a director. She is also a highly respected drama teacher.
The daughter of Greek immigrants, Dukakis once worked as a physical therapist. Her interest in acting came after appearing in summer stock and then taking adult-ed classes in drama at Boston University, where she graduated with a master’s in Fine Arts. After graduation, she began her theatrical career and then co-founded Boston’s renowned Charles Playhouse.
Dukakis made her film debut in director Robert Rossen’s last film Lillith (1964). She continued to make sporadic and undistinguished appearances in movies though much of the ’80s but did not gain notice until 1987 when she won an Academy Award for playing Cher’s Italian mother in Moonstruck. Since then, Dukakis has specialized in playing older women from different ethnic backgrounds or mothers. Subsequent film appearances include Steel Magnolias (1989), where she played the elegant widow Clairee Belcher, Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and Picture Perfect (1997).