Actress Darlene Cates, most well known for her work in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, has died at 69.


Cates other acting roles included Picket Fences and Touched by an Angel, but working on the 1993 classic alongside Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio is where she left her mark.

“Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside,” wrote DiCaprio in a heartwarming tribute. “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.”

The actress’ daugther Sheri Ann Cates announced her mother’s death on Monday, saying Cates died “peacefully in her sleep” on March 26. “It is with a bitter-sweet heart that we share that our precious wife, mother, and Gaga, Darlene Guthrie Cates, was called Home, somewhat unexpectedly, peacefully in her sleep, Sunday morning, March 26th,” Sheri Ann wrote on Facebook. “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. (Dancing was something she talked about loving to do “back in the day”!) For those who have already sent your love, texts and prayers, thank you.”

Cates played the housebound obese mother of Depp and DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a role that stuck with many actors and fans. “No one could’ve been more surprised than I was because I was just a fat housewife in Forney, Texas, of all places,” Cates said of her casting in the iconic film. “I was sort of skeptical, but when I started reading, Lasse [Hallstrom, director] threw his hands up in the air and said, ‘Finally! Somebody that can act!'”

Cates is survived by her husband of 45 years Robert Cates, her daughter Sheri Ann, and her sons, Mark and Chris Cates.

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