Leonardo DiCaprio has hailed actress Darlene Cates as his “best acting mom” following her death at the age of 69.
The Oscar-winning actor paid tribute to Darlene after playing her son in the 1993 film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. She died in her sleep at her home in Forney, Texas, on Sunday, her family confirmed.
In a post on Facebook, Leonardo 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.” Darlene was cast in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape as the morbidly obese mother of Johnny Depp, in the title role, and his mentally impaired younger brother, played by Leonardo.
She had been spotted by the film’s screenwriter, Peter Hedges, while appearing on the Sally Jessy Raphael talk show, where she discussed her struggles with her weight. The film, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, won acclaim for its sensitive portrayal of a troubled but loving family in a small Iowa town.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News in 2012, Darlene revealed she had lost more than 17 stone after her weight had peaked at 41 stone. Her other acting work included appearances in TV series Picket Fences and Touched By An Angel.