A longtime veteran of the stage and the big and small screens, Olympia Dukakis, who died May 1, left behind a remarkable legacy including pioneering work as a theater founder and activist. An award-winning fixture in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions since the 1960s, she broke through in film in the 1980s after numerous bit parts, crafting a string of indelible characters over the course of her distinguished career.
Nominated for two Oscars, this powerful drama from writer-director Sarah Polley features Julie Christie as a married woman whose encroaching Alzheimer’s puts her marriage to a harrowing test. Dukakis shines in the third act as Marian, the wife of another nursing home resident who has to make a difficult and ultimately selfless choice.
A buddy movie unlike any other, this Bill Duke dramedy teams up Dukakis with Ellen Burstyn and Diane Ladd as a trio of widows whose complicated relationships with their late husbands lead to some major life changes. Each of the leads etches a strong, unique character here, with Dukakis getting juicy moments as Doris, the most devoted of the three to her departed spouse.
Based on the play by Paul Rudnick, this mainstream romantic comedy tackles the complexities and traumas of the gay dating scene at the height of the AIDS crisis with Steven Weber as the title character navigating the tricky world of modern love. Dukakis gets a delightful role as the colorful Mrs. Marcangelo, the most gung-ho PFLAG mom you’ll ever see.
Dukakis took home an Academy Award for Supporting Actress and became a household name with her role here as Rose Castorini, whose daughter, Loretta (Cher), finds her commitment to family tradition tested by her romantic feelings for her fiancé’s brother. Meanwhile, Dukakis’ character finds her own marital loyalty tested while trying to push her daughter in the right direction, with hilarious and very romantic results.
One of the screen’s most beloved odes to teaching charts decades in the life of a music instructor played by Richard Dreyfuss, whose dream of becoming a composer takes a backseat to his time in the classroom. Dukakis exudes authority and warmth as the principal who holds the fate of the music program in her hands and sets the course for the rest of Mr. Holland’s life.
Easily one of the most quotable films around, this hilarious and heartbreaking adaptation of the smash stage play brings together a once-in-a-lifetime ensemble of actresses who deal with life, love and a tragic loss of one of their own. Among a powerhouse roster including Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts and a scene-stealing Shirley MacLaine, Dukakis more than holds her own as Clairee Belcher, the town’s political royalty and a most unlikely rock to lean on when the going gets tough.