Leonardo DiCaprio is here to say goodbye to Darlene Cates.
The veteran actor, who got his huge break on the big screen in 1993 when he played Cates’ son in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, took to Facebook on Tuesday and paid tribute to Cates.
The long-time actress died this week at the age of 69.
“Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside,” DiCaprio wrote, adding of the actress:
“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 died on Sunday morning in her sleep. Her sister, Sheri Cates Morgan, shared the sad news on social media.
“It is with a bitter-sweet heart that we share that our precious wife, mother, and Gaga, Darlene Guthrie Cates, was called Home, somewhat unexpectedly, peacefully in her sleep Sunday morning, March 26th,” Morgan wrote.
Best known for portraying Johnny Depp and DiCaprio‘s overweight, housebound mother in the memorable film, Cates was discovered by Gilbert Grape author and screenwriter Peter Hedges.
He saw a tape of the actress on a 1985 episode of Sally Jessy Raphael titled “Too Heavy to Leave Their House.”
On the talk show at the time, Cates opened up about her battle with obesity and the pelvic infection that caused her to gain nearly 150 pounds.
Here’s a look at her on set with two actors who would go on to become A-Listers in Hollywood:
“I can do moms real well. I don’t have to delve very deep to find Mom in there,” the Texas native told The Dallas Morning News at one point in an interview about her acting.
Only 19 at the time the movie was released, DiCaprio earned his first Oscar nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
He later wrote Cates a note in praise of her on-screen ability.
“I’m not really the best in expressing my words in writing but you are the most special person I have ever [met],” he said back in the day, adding:
“I’ll always remember you as the best acting mamma I ever had. You triumphed in your role.”
Following many years of health struggles, Cates lost 250 pounds and tried to get back into acting awhile back.
She went on to appear in such TV shows as Picket Fences in 1994 and Touched by an Angel in 1996 and also had a small role in the 2001 film Wolf Girl.
May she rest in peace.