Darlene Cates

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Darlene Cates
Born 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
Spouse(s) Robert Cates (m. 1963)

Darlene Cates (born Rita Darlene Guthrie; December 13, 1947 - March 26, 2017) was an American actress. She was best 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 1985 episode of Sally Jessy Raphael 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 (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.[1] 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[2] and Johnny Depp.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Cates was born in Borger, Texas, to Truman Madison Guthrie. She grew up in Dumas. Her parents divorced when she was 12 years old. She took solace in food, and her overeating led to obesity. She underwent gastroplasty in 1981, when she weighed 408 lb (29 st 2 lb or 185 kg). She lost 99 lb (7 st 1 lb or 45 kg) but eventually gained the weight back and more, topping out at 548 lb (39 st 2 lb or 249 kg).

Darlene married Robert Cates, a U.S. Marine, on January 11, 1963. She had one daughter, Sheri Ann (b. January 1966), and two sons, Mark (b. October 1967) and Chris (b. 1971). She had four grandchildren and lived in the Dallas suburbs. In 1992, she received her high school diploma via correspondence courses. In 2012, Cates had lost 240 pounds after a series of 2010 health issues kept her hospitalized for nearly a year, and she expressed a desire to resume her acting career.[4]


Cates passed away in her sleep on March 26th, 2017. Her Daughter, Sheri Cates Morgan, announced her passing on a Facebook post.[5]



Year Title Role Notes
1993 What's Eating Gilbert Grape Bonnie Grape
2014 Mother Mother Short
2017 Billboard Penny Post-production


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


  1. ^ Leonardi, Marisa (December 12, 1993). "Darlene Cates Knows a Weighty Role When It's Offered". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  2. ^ Nudd, Tim (August 9, 2012). "Darlene Cates Loses 250 Lbs., Sets Sights on Acting Again". People Magazine. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Vincent, Alice (February 15, 2016). "Oscars flashback: whatever happened to Gilbert Grape's mama?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Kaul, Greta (10 August 2012). "Forney actress in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' sheds 240 pounds, looks to act again". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  5. ^ http://variety.com/2017/film/news/darlene-cates-dead-whats-eating-gilbert-grape-died-69-1202017746/

External links[edit]