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Leonardo DiCaprio pays tribute to Gilbert Grape screen mother Darlene Cates

Darlene Cates passed away in her sleep on Sunday morning (26Mar17).

Leonardo DiCaprio has paid tribute to his What's Eating Gilbert Grape co-star Darlene Cates, calling her the "best acting mom" he has ever worked with.

Cates passed away in her sleep on Sunday morning (26Mar17), her family recently announced.

The famously overweight actress was best known for her acting debut in the 1993 movie, in which she played the mother of Johnny Depp's character Gilbert and DiCaprio's character Arnie, who is obese and unable to leave the house.

DiCaprio was quick to comment on Cates' passing, sharing a touching post on his Facebook page on Tuesday (28Mar17) as he came to terms with the sad news.

"Darlene was the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside," he wrote. "Her endearing personality and incredible talent will live on in the memories of those who knew her, and those who loved her work. My thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time."

DiCaprio earned his first Oscar nomination for his role in the movie, in which he played a mentally impaired young boy. He subsequently received a further four acting nominations for Oscars, and finally took home the golden statuette for The Revenant in 2016.

Cates was discovered by the film's screenwriter Peter Hedges, who saw her in a 1985 episode of The Sally Jessy Raphael Show entitled Too Heavy to Leave Their House, in which she discussed her weight and how it affected her life.

Cates subsequently enjoyed guest roles on TV shows such as Picket Fences and Touched by an Angel and in 2001 TV movie Wolf Girl. She had recently finished filming a comedy named Billboard, according to IMDb.com.

Her tragic passing was announced by her sister Sheri, who wrote on Facebook: "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 Saviour, Jesus. (Dancing was something she talked about loving to do 'back in the day'!)"

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