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‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ Star Darlene Cates Dies at 69

Darlene Cates, known for playing the mother in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” has died. She was 69.

Cates’ daughter, Sheri Cates Morgan, announced in a Facebook post that her mother died “peacefully in her sleep” on Sunday morning.

“We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father, breaking away only to dance with our Savior, Jesus,” the daughter wrote. “(Dancing was something she talked about loving to do ‘back in the day’!)”

“Gilbert Grape” star Leonardo DiCaprio honored his on-screen mother in a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon.

“Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside,” DiCaprio wrote. “Her endearing personality and incredible talent will live on in the memories of those who knew her, and those who loved her work. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time.”

Cates was born in Borger, Texas and grew up in Dumas. Her breakout role in Hollywood was also her first when she was offered the role of a housebound mother in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” The drama, which starred a young Johnny Depp, notably earned DiCaprio his first Oscar nomination.

The actress was allegedly discovered by “Gilbert Grape” author and screenwriter Peter Hedges after she appeared on an episode of Sally Jessy Raphael’s talk show titled “Too Heavy to Leave Their House.” On the program, Cates discussed how being obese impacted her life.

After “Gilbert Grape” Cates’ acting career was limited to guest turns in “Touched by an Angel,” “Picket Fences” and the TV movie “Wolf Girl.”

Watch a video of the “Best Moments of Mamma Grape” below:

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