Olympia

For well over half a century, Olympia Dukakis has graced both stage and screen with stellar performances boosted by a passion for her craft that very few, male or female, can rival. On the big screen, she appeared in highly acclaimed films such as Steel Magnolias, Mr. Holland’s Opus and Moonstruck, for which she won an Oscar, as well as numerous independent films. On television, she is perhaps best known for playing Anna Madrigal, a transgender landlady, in the mini-series Tales from the City, though her list of small screen performances equals her film roster. 

In between, and perhaps most importantly, she has remained a fixture on stage in countless plays across the country. She hasn’t slowed down either, despite being nearly 90 years old. Director Harry Mavromichalis now brings us inside the mind of one who truly deserves to be called a living legend in his new documentary, Olympia.

“…stellar performances boosted by a passion for her craft that very few, male or female, can rival.”

Born in the early 1930s to strict immigrant parents in Massachusetts, Dukakis grew up fighting in the streets as both a member of an ethnic group and as a woman. These experiences shaped her, however, driving her to combat the odds against her and succeed. Unable to get roles on Broadway because of her name, she went to New Jersey and formed her own theater troupe where she could choose the parts she wanted to play and hone her craft down to perfection. 

Eventually, she met fellow actor Louis Zorich, who would become her husband and longtime companion until his death earlier this year. Together, they had three children and fed off each other’s energy, constantly pushing each other to be better than they had before. Through strikingly honest personal conversations and candid observations from friends and family, we get to meet this strong woman, never one to mince words, who rose to be the actor every actor wants to be.

“…may seem disjointed and fragmented, but soon it becomes apparent that this is a reflection of his subject.”

At first, Mavromichalis’ direction may seem disjointed and fragmented, but soon it becomes apparent that this is a reflection of his subject. Like most geniuses, her mind works so quickly and intensely that it can be difficult to keep up if you’re not paying attention. Fortunately, Mavromichalis captures every facet of her personality including her brutal honesty, her staunch activism for gay rights, and teacher/mentor to Greek woman. Ultimately, her presence becomes so infectious that you can’t take your eyes off her and you latch onto every word she says for fear of missing some essential truth.

Olympia Dukakis may be in her 80s, but she is more passionate, real and progressive than a million woke millennials screaming on the internet. This, folks, is why we respect our elders. Watch Olympia and find out why Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin calls her “an octogenarian motherfucker.”

Olympia (2018) Directed by Harry Mavromichalis. Starring Olympia Dukakis, Louis Zorich, Rocco Sisto, Armistead Maupin, Norman Jewison, Laura Linney, Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Asner, Diane Ladd, Lynn Cohen, Lainie Kazan, Austin Pendleton.

9 out of 10 stars

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