Darlene Cates dies aged 69: Best acting mom I ever had, says Leonardo DiCaprio

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Oscar-winning actor pays tribute to endearing personality and incredible talent of Whats Eating Gilbert Grape co-star

Leonardo DiCaprio has paid tribute to Darlene Cates as the best acting mom I ever had following her death at the age of 69.

The Oscar-winning actor worked with Cates on the 1993 film, Whats Eating Gilbert Grape. Cates died in her sleep at her home in Forney, Texas, on Sunday, her family confirmed.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, DiCaprio said: Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside. 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 cast in Whats Eating Gilbert Grape as morbidly obese mother, Bonnie, to Johnny Depps Gilbert. DiCaprio played his mentally handicapped younger brother, Arnie.

The cast of Whats Eating Gilbert Grape: Leonardo Dicaprio, Laura Harrington, Johnny Depp, Darlene Cates and Kate Schellhardt. Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images

The film, directed by Lasse Hallstrm, won acclaim for its sensitive portrayal of a troubled but loving family in a small Iowa town.

Cates landed the role after being spotted by the films screenwriter, Peter Hedges, while appearing on the Sally Jessy Raphael talk show, where she discussed her struggles with her weight.

Her other acting work included appearances in the TV series Picket Fences and Touched by an Angel.

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