Gilbert Grape star Darlene Cates once topped out at 575 pounds and was tormented with depression, but the actress now has lost 245 pounds and is looking for a return to acting.
Cates played the mother of 19-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1993 movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Though the movie was known for the breakout performance DiCaprio delivered in one of his first major roles, Cates also earned accolades for her portrayal of the depressed and emotionally tormented mother of DiCaprio and Johnny Depp‘s characters.
The performance wasn’t far off from Cates’s own life, NBC News reported. Darlene Cates herself struggled with weight issues and depression, spending 11 months in the hospital where she endured four surgeries and three “near-death experiences.” She has since been able to drop 244 pounds, and the Forney, Texas native said she is now inspired to lose even more weight.
She aims to lose another 100 pounds with a goal of reaching 221 pounds. The 64-year-old said she wants to be an actress again and keeps a letter DiCaprio sent her after Gilbert Grape wrapped as inspiration.
“I’ll always remember you as the best acting momma I’ve ever had,” he wrote in a note published by Dallas Morning News. “You triumphed in your role.”
DiCaprio’s words helped Cates gain the self-confidence needed to take control of her life and attack her weight issues. His note helped her realize “how God had used me to touch other people and give them courage by what I did,” Darlene Cates told the Dallas Morning News. “And that gave them courage to put themselves out there more,” she added.
The Gilbert Grape star is no longer diabetic and is in search of healthy ways to continue losing weight. Darlene Cates also told the Dallas Morning News that after years spent in her room, “I’m ready to blow this joint.”