Date of Birth : Jun 20th 1931
Olympia Dukakis 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).
In addition to her film and stage work — she has appeared in over 100 plays — Dukakis has also occasionally appeared on television in movies and mini-series. One of her most famous roles was that of the mysterious and kooky Annie Madrigal in the PBS adaptation of Armistad Maupin’s Tales of the City (1993). Though the miniseries’ gay themes led to considerable controversy, a sequel starring Dukakis was released in 1998. In addition to her Oscar win, she has earned Obie Awards, a New York and Los Angeles Critics Award, and a Golden Globe. As a drama teacher, Dukakis has worked at New York University and Yale. Her cousin, Michael Dukakis, was a presidential candidate for the Democratic party in 1988. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide