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Darlene Cates
Rita Darlene Guthrie

(1947-12-13)December 13, 1947
Borger, Texas, U.S.
Died March 26, 2017(2017-03-26) (aged 69)
Forney, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1993–2017
Robert Cates
(m. 1963)

Darlene Cates (born Rita Darlene Guthrie; December 13, 1947 – March 26, 2017) was an American actress. She became known for her role in the 1993 film What's Eating Gilbert Grape, in which she played the title character's housebound mother.


Author and screenwriter Peter Hedges saw a tape of Cates on a 1992 episode of Sally entitled "Too Heavy to Leave Their House". On the show, she discussed her battle with obesity and how it had affected her life. In 1986, pelvic infections caused by her excess weight kept her bedridden for two years, during which she gained an additional 149 pounds (68 kg). Hedges offered her the role of a morbidly obese mother in the 1993 film What's Eating Gilbert Grape, which she accepted. Television roles followed on the shows Picket Fences in 1994 and Touched by an Angel in 1996. She had a small role in the 2001 film Wolf Girl. Producer J. Miles Dale flew a small crew and the film's stars from Romania to Texas to shoot their scenes with Cates.

Her performance in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, her first attempt at acting in any form, received critical acclaim and was lauded by her costars Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.

Personal life

Cates married Robert Cates, a U.S. Marine, on January 11, 1963. She had one daughter, Sheri Ann, and two sons, Mark and Chris. She had four grandchildren and lived in Forney, Texas. In 1992, she received her high school diploma via correspondence courses. In 2012, Cates had lost 240 pounds after a series of health issues in 2010 kept her hospitalized for nearly a year, and she expressed a desire to resume her acting career.


Cates died in her sleep at age 69 on March 26, 2017. Her daughter, Sheri Cates Morgan, announced her passing on a Facebook post.



Year Title Role Notes
1993 What's Eating Gilbert Grape Bonnie Grape
2014 Mother Mother Short
2019 Billboard Penny (final film role), posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1994 Picket Fences Sophie Wallace "Squatter's Rights"
1996 Touched by an Angel Claudia Bell "Statute of Limitations"
2001 Wolf Girl Athena the Fat Lady TV film

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Darlene Cates para niños

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