Darlene Cates, 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' Star, Dead At 69

Best known for playing Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio's mom, Cates was a force on screen.

Darlene Cates, who starred as Bonnie Grape in 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” died in her sleep on Sunday morning, her family told TMZ.  

Cates, best known for playing Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio’s housebound and overweight mother in the Peter Hedges novel-turned-movie, was 69. Her daughter, Sheri, took to Facebook to share the news, writing, “We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father.” 

Cates was reportedly cast in “Gilbert Grape” after Hedges watched her on a 1992 segment on “Sally Jessy Raphael,” entitled “Too Heavy to Leave Their House.” Casting directors offered Cates ― who was close to 600 pounds and housebound at the time ― the role of Bonnie, and she accepted. It was a standout performance by Cates, who went on to appear in shows like “Picket Fences” and “Touched by an Angel.” She is also set to star in the new movie “Billboard,” which is currently in post-production. 

In 2012, Cates revealed she lost 250 pounds after years of health problems. She told the Dallas Morning News that she hoped to act again, as she had such a lovely experience with “Gilbert Grape.” 

Her on-screen son DiCaprio wrote her a note after the film, telling Cates, “I’m not really the best in expressing my words in writing but you are the most special person I have ever [met]. I’ll always remember you as the best acting mamma I ever had. You triumphed in your role.”

Rest in peace, Darlene Cates. 

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