Who was Olympia Dukakis's husband? Broadway star Louis Zorich built NJ's first professional theater with wife

The theatre icon and busy actor starred with the likes of Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman


                            Who was Olympia Dukakis's husband? Broadway star Louis Zorich built NJ's first professional theater with wife
Louis Zorich and Olympia Dukakis on April 13, 2014 in New York City (Getty Images)

Actress Olympia Dukakis, who won an Oscar for her role in the 1987 romantic comedy 'Moonstuck', has died aged 89, her family has announced.

Her brother wrote she was "at peace" after suffering ill health. Dukakis had a long and distinguished career in theatre, both as a performer and as a director. The actress, who went on to star in 'Steel Magnolias', was married to Louis Zorich. Zorich was a theatre icon and a busy actor who appeared on Broadway with stars like Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman, and on the popular TV series 'Mad About You'. Here's what you need to know about him.

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Louis Zorich (Getty Images)

Who was Olympia Dukakis's husband Louis Zorich?


Zorich, who lived from February 12, 1924 to January 30, 2018, is better known to television viewers for his role as Burt Buchman, Paul Buchman's father, on the NBC series 'Mad About You', and the grandfather in 'Brooklyn Bridge, a well-regarded CBS series during the 1990s. Born in Chicago to Yugoslavian immigrants, Zorich attended Earle Elementary School before going on to attend Roosevelt University and Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago (now at DePaul University) in his hometown. He also served in the US Army during World War II, in an engineering firefighting platoon attached to Gen George S Patton’s command.

Olympia Dukakis and Louis Zorich (couple on the left) in 'Mad About You' (Getty Images)

Movies and theater

Zorich played a number of roles over the course of about 60 years, the majority of which were of the character-actor variety. He recorded and released 'Moby Dick: Selections Read by Louis Zorich' on Folkways Records in 1965. Following this, he landed one of his iconic roles as the Russian Constable in family classic 'Fiddler on the Roof' (1971). 

In Arthur Miller's movie adaptation of his book 'Death of a Salesman' (1985), he played Ben, the older brother of Willy Loman. In 1986 he played a Swiss businessman in 'Club Paradise' with Robin Williams, and in 1988 appeared as Nikos, the Greek millionaire, part of a group arriving in a yacht party, in 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' with Steve Martin and Michael Caine.

His Broadway credits include 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' (2003) to 'Hadrian VII' (1969), 'The Condemned of Altona '(1966), and  'The Odd Couple' (1965). Zorich was on the faculty of HB Studio in New York City. Zorich and his wife founded the Whole Theatre Company in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1973, which was the state's first resident professional theater, which they operated for 18 years.

Actors Louis Zorich, Matthew Borish, Lena Georgas and Omar Metwally perform at the opening night of the play "Beast On the Moon" at Century Center for the Performing Arts on April 27, 2005 in New York City. (Getty Images)

Built a theatre with his wife

There he played King Lear. In 2004, he played Agamemnon in the Aquila Theater Company's Off Broadway production of Aeschylus' 'Agamemnon,' opposite Dukakis' Clytemnestra. “I don’t know why or how people cannot want to go to theater,” he once said, according to the New York Times. “I don’t understand that. It’s not like TV, it’s not like the movies.”

He met Dukakis in an off-Broadway play called 'The Opening of a Window.' "My dad was up for the part of the husband,” Peter Zorich told the New York Times. “The wife was already cast — Olympia Dukakis. He read for the part but didn’t get it — can’t make that up. They moved in together.” The pair married the next year, and remained so for 56 years, from 1962, to his death in 2018. Together, Zorich and Dukakis have three children. Peter and Stefan are their two sons, and Christina is their daughter.

Louis Zorich and Olympia Dukakis attend the 20th Anniversary Hellenic Times Gala at The New York Marriott Marquis on May 14, 2011 in New York City. (Getty Images)

'We almost got divorced'

In 1991, Zorich and Dukakis played warring couple George and Martha in a Montclair production of Edward Albee’s 'Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' He said that the couple had gotten too deep into their characters. He said that after a few weeks on the show, he marched into her dressing room and demanded, "Why are you going after me like that?" only to hear her reply that she was only acting. She approached him with the same sort of allegation after another week or two. “I’ll never forget that,” he said. “We almost got divorced.”

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