Olympia Dukakis, Oscar-Winning Moonstruck Actress, Dead at 89 After 'Many Months of Failing Health'

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Ally Mauch
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Olympia Dukakis, the actress best known for her role in the 1987 film Moonstruck, has died. She was 89.

Her brother, Apollo, announced the news in a Facebook post on Saturday. He did not share Dukakis' cause of death but noted that she had been ill for some time.

"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, citing Dukakis' late husband, Louis Zorich.

Born in 1931 in Lowell, Massachusetts, the star was the daughter of a Greek-born, American-educated lawyer named Constantine, who died in 1975. Her mother, Alexandra, was also born in Greece and worked in cotton mills in Massachusetts.

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Dukakis, the cousin of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, began her career as a theater actress before entering the world of film with her Oscar-winning role in Moonstruck. In addition to the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, her performance earned her a Golden Globe and a BAFTA nomination.

"I'm so worldly and sophisticated," she told PEOPLE ahead of the Oscars in 1988. "When I heard I'd been nominated, I jumped up and down 50 times, like a child."

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The romantic comedy, directed by Norman Jewison, featured Dukakis as Rose Castorini — the meddling mother to Cher's Loretta. Cher, 74, previously opened up to PEOPLE about working with Dukakis, noting the connection they formed while filming.

"We have the same demeanor," Cher said of her and Dukakis at the time. "We laughed a lot. It was easy to step into our mother-daughter relationship. She even ad-libbed pinching me."

"Her timing is astounding," added Jewison of Dukakis.

Dukakis was also known for her role as Clairee Belcher in Herbert Ross' 1989 film Steel Magnolias.

For her work in TV, Dukakis earned three Emmy nominations for Lucky Day (1991), More Tales of the City (1998) and Joan of Arc (1999).