'Best Acting Mamma' Dead at Age 69

Darlene Cates played Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp's mother in 'Gilbert Grape'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2017 9:55 AM CDT

(Newser) – An actress described on IMDB as "lovable, impressionable, and immeasurably talented" has died at the age of 69, though most people recognize her through her character rather than her real name. Family members say Darlene Cates, who played Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio's obese mom in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, died in her sleep Sunday morning, TMZ reports.

Cates earned the role after screenwriter Peter Hedges saw her on an episode of Sally Jessy Raphael's talk show that dealt with obesity. "I'll always remember you as the best acting mamma I ever had," DiCaprio wrote in a note to her after the film won him his first Oscar nomination, People notes. Cates went on to lose hundreds of pounds so she could continue acting, with mostly minor TV roles on shows such as Picket Fences and Touched by an Angel. (Read more obituary stories.)

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