Darlene Cates of 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' dead at 69

The actress also appeared on the TV series "Picket Fences" and "Touched by an Angel."

Annie Martin

March 28 (UPI) -- What's Eating Gilbert Grape? star Darlene Cates died Sunday at age 69.

The actress' daughter, Sheri Ann Cates, announced in a Facebook post Monday that Cates died "peacefully in her sleep" March 26.


"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," Sheri Ann wrote.

"We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father," she added. "For those who have already sent your love, texts and prayers, thank you."

Cates was best known for playing Bonnie, the housebound mom of Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio's characters, in the 1993 movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape?. Screenwriter Peter Hedges told Entertainment Weekly in 2014 that director Lasse Hallstrom cast Cates after seeing her on a Sally Jesse Raphael segment about her weight.

"No one could've been more surprised than I was because I was just a fat housewife in Forney, Texas, of all places," Cates said of her casting. "I was sort of skeptical, but when I started reading, Lasse threw his hands up in the air and said, 'Finally! Somebody that can act!'"

Cates later appeared on the TV series Picket Fences and Touched by an Angel. She is survived by Robert Cates, her husband of 54 years, and children Sheri Ann, Mark and Chris Cates.

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