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Oscar winner for Moonstruck has died

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Olympia Dukakis, the veteran stage and screen actress whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher's mother in the romantic comedy Moonstruck has died at the age of 89.

Allison Levy, her agent at Innovative Artists, said Dukakis died on Saturday morning in her home in New York City.

A cause of death was not immediately released.

Dukakis won her Oscar through a surprising chain of circumstances, beginning with author Nora Ephron's recommendation that she play Meryl Streep's mother in the film version of Ephron's book Heartburn.

Dukakis got the role but her scenes were cut from the film.

To make it up to her, director Mike Nichols cast her in his hit play Social Security.

Director Norman Jewison saw her in that role and cast her in Moonstruck.

Dukakis won the Oscar for best supporting actress and Cher took home the trophy for best actress.

She referred to her 1988 win as "the year of the Dukakii" because it was also the year Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, her cousin, was the Democratic party's presidential nominee.

At the ceremony, she held her Oscar high over her head and called out: "OK, Michael, let's go!"

Dukakis had yearned to be an actress from an early age and had hoped to study drama in college.

Her Greek immigrant parents insisted she pursue a more practical education, so she studied physical therapy at Boston University on a scholarship from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.

After earning her bachelor's degree, she worked at an understaffed hospital in Marmet, West Virginia, and at the Hospital for Contagious Diseases in Boston.

But the lure of the theatre eventually led her to study drama at Boston University.