TMZ reports Tuesday that Darlene Cates, the actress best known for playing Bonnie “Momma” Grape in Lasse Hallstrom’s peculiar 1993 drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, “died Sunday morning in her sleep” at the age of 69.
Cates, who once referred to some of Grape’s more dramatic scenes as “art imitating real life,” was discovered by casting directors after appearing on a 1992 episode of Sally entitled “Too Heavy to Leave the House.” In a 2012 profile, she recalled how being in the movie changed her life:
It was a triumph, too, for her fans, many of whom wrote to Cates, thanking her for her bravery.
I realized “how God had used me to touch other people and give them courage by what I did,” Cates said. “And that gave them courage to put themselves out there more.”
If you’re in the mood to revisit the role that made her famous, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is streaming on Amazon Prime. Here is the trailer: