He was referencing the actress' husband of over 55 years Louis Zorich, the esteemed stage actor widely known for a recurring role on "Mad About You," who died at 93 in 2018.
Born June 20, 1931, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Dukakis was an outstanding athlete and studied to be a physical therapist in the wake of the polio epidemic, but switched gears and earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree ahead of a career on the stage.
Upon moving to NYC in 1959, she found sparse work, almost exclusively in rare "ethnic" roles, but for her performance in an off-Broadway production of the play "Man Equals Man" (1963) she won an Obie Award, a break. In a prolific 50-year career in the theater, she tackled classics and modern fare with aplomb, and in 1973 co-founded the Whole Theater Company with Zorich.
Among her many awards in the theater, Dukakis won a second Obie for "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" in 1985 and was honored with a 2000 Outer Critics Circle Award for "Rose," a one-woman show in which she played a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Following minor film credits in the '60s and '70s, Dukakis landed the role of her career, as Rose Castorini in Norman Jewison's acclaimed film "Moonstruck" (1987). The Cher-Nicolas Cage romantic comedy was an enormous critical and box-office hit, and Dukakis took home multiple awards, most prominently a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her supporting performance.
It was a heady time for the Dukakis family — her cousin, Michael Dukakis, was the Democratic nominee for president in 1988.
She enjoyed her later-in-life fame, telling The Los Angeles Times in 1991, “The fun part is that people pass me on the street and yell lines from my movies: For ‘Moonstruck’ they say, ‘Your life is going down the toilet...' It’s real funny.”
Dukakis' "Moonstruck" co-star Cher tweeted about calling Dukakis when she was very ill, and remembered her by writing, "Olympia Dukakis Was an Amazing,Academy Award Winning Actress.Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was That Of a Suffering Wife, We ALL The Time.She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis,Her”Handsome Talented,Husband”.I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One."
Wrote This Hrs Ago,But Didn’t hit Twt😔.Heard Olympia Was Sick So Called Her Daughter & Said Could I Talk 2 Her.She Said “She might Not HEAR or SPEAK”.I Called In2 The Receiver”Olympia It’s Cher,I ❤️You”.Remember Moonstruck,She Said “oh cher,I❣️you”She Was Weak But Happy. RIP O
"Steel Magnolias" co-star Dolly Parton told "Today," "I was so sorry to hear that Olympia Dukakis had passed away.She has been one of my favorite people that I have ever known or worked with. I really got very close to her and felt like we were good friends. Even though I didn't get to see her much, I thought of her often and knew that she was such a quality human being. She will be missed by her fans, her family, and those of us that were lucky enough to get to know her personally."
Having made episodic TV appearances since 1962, Dukakis was a late bloomer in that medium as well. She received her first Emmy nomination for the 1991 miniseries "Lucky Day" and was nominated for a Golden Globe for 1992's "Sinatra," in which she played the iconic singer's mother Dolly.
In 1993, Dukakis played Anna Madrigal, the mercurial matriarch of an LGBTQ circle of friends and chosen family in "Tales of the City," a PBS production so controversial for its frank subject matter that funding of PBS was subsequently hotly debated in Congress. The limited series was nonetheless so popular it spawned 1998's "More Tales of the City," "Further Tales of the City" (2001), and the Netflix series "Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City" (2019), one of her final performances.
Dukakis released the memoir "Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress" in 2003, and in 2020 was the subject of a feature documentary entitled "Dukakis."
She spent her time, when she wasn't acting, teaching acting at NYU and on the lecture circuit. She told The Globe & Mail in 2013 that discovering new talent was one of her joys, saying, “There’s such a thing as payback in this business. People have stepped out for me. If I find somebody that has talent, I step out for him.”
Dukakis is survived by her three children, Christina, Peter and Stefan Zorich.
The revered actress was remembered on social media by a slew of entertainment figures:
Viola Davis tweeted, "RIP Olympia Dukakis...the consummate actor. You made all around you step up their game. A joy to work with. Rest well. "May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
Bradley Whitford remembered her as, "Brilliant, strong, hilarious soul. An actor’s actor. Rest In Peace Olympia Dukakis."
"Bill & Ted's" Alex Winter tweeted, "RIP to my old Montclair neighbor, beautiful artist and co-founder of the Whole Theater company, Olympia Dukakis."
Rosie O'Donnell stressed Dukakis' first love, tweeting, "So sad to hear - Theater veteran Olympia Dukakis, the Oscar-winning 'Moonstruck' actress, has died."
Sarah Polley, who acted alongside and later directed Dukakis, shared multiple anecdotes on Twitter, including, "First day I worked with her when I was 24 - 'Where are we going for margaritas tonight?' I said I wanted to get an early night. She said ' We gotta have some laughs. Otherwise we'll blow our f---ing brains out.' We went for the margaritas."
"Jeffrey" writer Paul Rudnick wrote, "RIP Olympia Dukakis, a wonderful actress, a delightful person and a legend in the theater community. She won an Oscar for Moonstruck, and audiences cherished her take-no-prisoners turn in Steel Magnolias. I worked with her on the movie of my play Jeffrey and she was bliss."
Kirstie Alley, whose mother Dukakis played in the "Look Who's Talking" movies, wrote, "Oh my.. Olympia Dukakis has passed away.. She will forever be young in my mind and be my loving movie mother. When will I learn that people do not live forever & the time to engage is NOW?.. RIP."
I remember first seeing Olympia Dukakis in PEER GYNT in Central Park. I went to see Judy Collins in the show but left worshipping at the feet of Ms Dukakis. Stacy Keach wasn't bad either. xoxoox
Olympia Dukakis has departed our company. We were Moonstruck by her, as she told us great Tales of the City. A true Steel Magnolia within a more common forest. Ah, what a life force, her later years her best. Rest now among the heavens, Olympia.