RIP‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ Star Darlene Cates Has Died at Age 69

Rest in peace, Darlene Cates.

The What’s Eating Gilbert Grape star unexpectedly died in her sleep on Sunday, March 25, her daughter, Sheri Ann Cates, confirmed in an emotional Facebook post.

“It is with a bittersweet 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 26,” the 51-year-old wrote.

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“We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father, breaking away only to dance with our Savior, Jesus. (Dancing was something she talked about loving to do ‘back in the day!’),” Sheri Ann continued.

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Darlene with Johnny Depp in Gilbert Grape.

Though Darlene was most known for her starring role as Bonnie Grape in the 1993 drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, the actress additionally appeared on TV shows Picket Fences (1994) and Touched by an Angel (1996) and in the movie Wolf Girl (2001).

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Prior to landing her breakout role as Gilbert Grape’s housebound mother — Gilbert was famously played by Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio — Darlene was discovered by Hollywood screenwriter Peter Hedges on a 1985 episode of The Sally Jessy Raphael Show titled, “Too Heavy to Leave Their House.”

Darlene was previously born in December 1947 and raised in Borger, TX. Her parents divorced when she was 12 years old and Darlene subsequently turned to eating, which later led to her obesity.

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Darlene with the Gilbert Grape cast.

In 1981, she underwent a gastroplasty at 408 pounds and shed nearly 100 pounds following the weight loss procedure. Over the years, Darlene regained the weight and once weighed 548 pounds at her heaviest.

After a 2010 health issue left her hospitalized for nearly a year, Darlene shed 240 pounds and revealed during a 2012 interview that she hoped to one day return to acting.

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The actress tied the knot with US Marine Robert Cates in 1963 and the two later had three children: daughter Sheri Ann and sons Mark Cates, 49, and Chris Cates, 46.

Our thoughts are with Darlene’s friends and family during this difficult time.

Click through the gallery below to see the rest of the What’s Eating Gilbert Grape cast then and now.