Darlene Cates

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Darlene Cates
Born Rita Darlene Guthrie
(1947-12-13) December 13, 1947 (age 67)
Borger, Texas, USA
Occupation Actress
Years active 1993–2001
Spouse(s) Robert Cates (m. 1963)

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

Early life[edit]

Cates was born in Borger, Texas, to Dorothy Ann (née Pfrimmer) and Truman Madison Guthrie. She grew up in Dumas. Her parents divorced when she was 12 years old, which changed her life dramatically.[1] She took solace in food, and her overeating led to obesity. She underwent gastroplasty in 1981, when she weighed 408 lb. She lost 99 lb but eventually gained the weight back and more, topping out at 748 lb.


Author and screenwriter Peter Hedges saw a tape of Darlene on a 1985 episode of Sally Jessy Raphael entitled "Too Heavy to Leave Their House". On the show, she spoke of her self-imposed imprisonment. In 1986, pelvic infections caused by her weight problems kept her bedridden for two years, during which she gained an additional 149 pounds (10 st 9 lb or 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.

Personal life[edit]

Darlene married Robert Cates, a postal worker, on January 11, 1963. She has one daughter, Sheri Ann (b. January 1966), and two sons, Mark (b. October 1967) and Chris (b. 1971). She had her first child at age 18, and is a grandmother of four. She currently lives in the Dallas suburbs. In 1992, she received her high school diploma via correspondence courses and emerged from her house after a five-year period of reclusion.[2]



Year Title Role
1993 What's Eating Gilbert Grape Bonnie Grape
2001 Wolf Girl Athena
2014 Mother - A Short Film Mother


Year Title Role Notes
1994 Picket Fences Sophie Wallace Episode: "Squatter's Rights"
1996 Touched by an Angel Claudia Bell Episode: "Statute of Limitations"


  1. ^ Darlene's Biography at the Wayback Machine (archived December 19, 2007)
  2. ^ Darlene Cates at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]