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The Only Actors Still Alive From The Cast Of Moonstruck

The Oscar-nominated 1987 romantic comedy "Moonstruck" has maintained its popularity for years. It's easy to see how viewers were bowled over by Oscar nominee director Norman Jewison's film: the Oscar-winning script by playwright John Patrick Shanley understands that love can be messy and confusing and infuriating, but it's also rewarding and freeing and life-confirming. It also looks gorgeous, carries loads of authentic New York/Italian atmosphere (even though much of the film's interiors were shot in Canada), and eminently quotable dialogue ("In time you'll drop dead and I'll come to your funeral in a red dress"). 

Chief among its many extraordinary qualities is its cast, led by Cher, who won an Oscar for the film, and a pre-megastardom Nicolas Cage as her unlikely lover. They're supported by an unimpeachable cast of stage, film and television talent, including Olympia Dukakis, who won an Oscar as Cher's acerbic mother; Oscar nominee Vincent Gardenia as her philandering father; John Mahoney as a self-impressed professor Dukakis meets at a restaurant; Danny Aiello as Cher's timid fiancée; Russian actor Feodor Chaliapin Jr., who began his acting career in silent movies, as her grandfather; and veteran actors Julie Bovasso, Louis Guss, Paula Trueman, and Helen Hanft as various relatives and family friends. 

Sadly, all of the supporting cast members referenced here are no longer with us — though Cher and Cage, as well as a handful of supporting players, remains active today. Following is a spoiler-heavy list of the only actors still alive from the cast of "Moonstruck."

Moonstruck made Cher a major movie star

Cher had already earned an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe for Mike Nichols' "Silkwood" before netting the Best Actress trophy as the widowed Loretta Castorini, for whom love carries a particular burden. The win was a transformative moment in a career and life built on acts of reinvention and revival. 

The El Centro, California native, born Cheryl Sarkissian, had already enjoyed stardom as a pop singer, both as a duo with former husband Sonny Bono and as a solo artist. Cher also conquered television, again with Sonny on "The Sonny & Cher Show" and as a solo host, before venturing into screen acting as a dramatic actress. The success of films like "Silkwood," "Moonstruck," and "The Witches of Eastwick" led to a brief period of box office stardom for Cher. Following the death of Bono in 1998, she scored a massive hit with "Believe," which became the best-selling single in the United States and United Kingdom that year, and netted her a Grammy.

Cher remains active and popular in her seventh decade through residencies in Las Vegas, new recordings, and occasional film appearances in "Burlesque" and "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." She received a Kennedy Center Honors prize in 2018 and became the face of numerous advertising and charitable campaigns. "Moonstruck" also returned to prominence, most notably during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its popularity earned Cher a spot in the New York Times Magazine's Best Actors of 2020 list –- the first time an actor who was not in current film joined its ranks.

Nicolas Cage was reluctant to star in Moonstruck

Nicolas Cage, who played the passionate Ronnie Cammereri in "Moonstruck," was initially not interested in appearing in Norman Jewison's film. "I wanted to be punk rock," he told USA Today in 2021. "I didn't want to do a schmaltzy movie about opera." Cage's heart was set on appearing in the 1989 horror-comedy "Vampire's Kiss" –- an indie feature which showcased one of his most unbridled performances -– and told then-agent Ed Limato that he would only do "Moonstruck" if he could do "Vampire." Limato struck the deal, and while "Vampire's Kiss" found a minor following (and helped built a cult around Cage's acting), "Moonstruck" earned him a Golden Globe nomination and led to his ascent as a major Hollywood star.

In the years since "Moonstruck," Cage has undergone almost as many career transformations and revivals as Cher. He's won an Oscar ("Leaving Las Vegas"), starred in high-profile studio pictures like "Adaptation." and "Bringing Out the Dead," been an inspired leading man in offbeat hits like "Raising Arizona," "Joe," and "Pig," an unlikely but believable action star in "Con Air" and "The Rock," a full-tilt-gonzo presence in cinematic freakouts like "Mandy" and "Color Out of Space," and a direct-to-video hero in far too many forgettable films to list. Between these efforts, he's also given memorable voice-over roles in animated features ("The Croods" and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"), hosted a television series ("The History of Swear Words"), and earned headlines for financial troubles and offbeat behavior. After three tumultuous decades in front of the camera, Cage appears to have put his B-pictures and action titles to rest and settled into the indie fare he wanted to make back in 1987. His most notable recent role: himself in "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent."

Broadway star Anita Gillette was Cosmo's mistress

Broadway talent Anita Gillette appeared in "Moonstruck" as Mona, with whom Loretta's dad, Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia), carries out an affair. Mona is a brassy type -– John Patrick Shanley's script describes her as a "pretty but overripe Italian woman in her late forties" –- who gushes over Cosmo's gift of a charm bracelet but takes offense when he forgets to compliment her on her dress at the opera house. The affair comes to an end when Loretta sees the pair together; Cosmo and Rose patch things up after a fashion, which includes Rose sharing with him the observation that men commit infidelity because they fear death.

A frequent star of Broadway musicals in the 1960s, Gillette earned a Tony nomination for the 1978 Neil Simon comedy "Chapter Two." She balanced stage and television work in the 1970s, including recurring runs on "Another World" and "Quincy, M.E.," before settling into character roles in features and on television. After "Moonstruck," she played Mary-Louise Parker's mother in "Boys on the Side" and reunited with "Moonstruck" co-stars John Mahoney and Robert Weil for Edward Burns's "She's the One" in 1996.

Roles in the new millennium included Liz Lemon's mom on "30 Rock," and recurring roles on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" as Marg Helgenberger's mother and Frannie on "After Forever" — the last of which earned Gillette a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2018.

Character actor Joe Grifasi added the Shy Waiter to his credits

Among the colorful secondary characters in "Moonstruck" is a crew of waitstaff at the Neapolitan restaurant where Danny Aiello's Johnny proposes to Loretta. These include Robert Weil's elderly Bobo, Nicolas Pasco as his nephew, Eddie, and character Joe Grifasi, who's billed as the Shy Waiter. The character is compensated for his lack of a formal name via a heartfelt exchange with Perry, in which he reveals that his reticence cost him a chance at happiness with a woman he wanted to marry.

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Grifasi began working in television in the early 1970s and gave one of his first screen appearances in 1978's "The Deer Hunter." His world-weary presence has been featured in numerous major features over the past three decades, including David Lynch's "The Elephant Man," the Coen Brothers' "The Hudsucker Proxy," and Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers."

TV work includes multiple episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" as Judge Hashi Horowitz, as well as two turns as New York Yankees Hall of Famers: He played shortstop and commentator Phil Rizzuto ("Holy cow!") in "61* " and catcher/manager Yogi Berra in the miniseries "The Bronx is Burning." Other small screen efforts include "Homicide: Life on the Street," "L.A. Law," "Bull," and "Lodge 49" as pawnbroker Burt.

You know Robin Bartlett from American Horror Story and Vice Principals

Robin Bartlett, who plays Barbara, one of the women who works in Johnny's bake shop, has appeared in features and on television and stage since the mid-1970s. Bartlett made her screen debut opposite Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Alexander in the 1980 TV-movie "Playing for Time," which concerned a group of classical musicians who stayed alive in a German concentration camp by playing for their Nazi captors.

Bartlett's feature film debut in Michael Cimino's infamous epic "Heaven's Gate" was followed by character roles in critically praised films like "Sophie's Choice, "Lean on Me," and several films by Woody Allen, including "Crimes and Misdemeanors." Shortly before landing her recurring role as Paul Reiser's sister on "Mad About You," Bartlett also reunited with Nicolas Cage in 1998's "City of Angels."

Bartlett has remained active on-screen in the 2000s with appearances in features like Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island" and the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis." She's had recurring roles on "American Horror Story," as the ill-fated Witches' Council member Cecily Pembroke on "AHS: Coven" and as Dr. Miranda Crump in "AHS: Asylum." She also played gossipy Ms. LeBlanc on "Vice Principals." In 2014, she earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination as a woman in a small town under siege by strange phenomena in "H."

Amy Aquino went from doing hair in Moonstruck to analyzing Avengers

A prolific character actress who has specialized in no-nonsense women of authority for more than three-decades, Amy Aquino made her feature film debut as Bonnie the hair stylist in "Moonstruck." (Aquino technically appeared in the grindhouse chiller "Slumber Party Massacre" five years earlier, but her role was uncredited and that's hardly "feature.") She quickly amassed multiple credits on the big and small screen in the 1990s, including recurring appearances on "Picket Fences" (which netted her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination), "Freaks and Geeks" (as Samm Levine's mom), "Felicity" (as psychologist Dr. Pavone) and "Everybody Loves Raymond" (as the "Cookie Lady" who bullies Ray).

Aquino's busy schedule continued into the 2000s with recurring roles on "ER" (as obstetrics chief Janet Coburn), "Monk," and "The Good Fight." She enjoyed a high-profile turn as Dr. Christina Raynor, the incisive Army vet and therapist assigned to work with Bucky Barnes in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" while also handling her series regular role on "Bosch" as Harry Bosch's superior officer, Lt. Grace Billets.

Stage veteran John Christopher Jones played Moonstruck's mystery character Lowell

If you're not familiar with the character of Lowell in "Moonstruck," chances are that you're not alone. The role, played by character actor and Broadway veteran John Christopher Jones, doesn't rate a mention in the shooting script. However, numerous credible sources, including the American Film Institute's entry on "Moonstruck," and IMDb, cite both the role and the actor as part of the cast.

Though Lowell is something of a mystery in "Moonstruck," John Christopher Jones is a familiar face to New York theatergoers and film and TV audiences. He made his Broadway debut in 1977 and began working on-screen that same year. One of his earliest roles was in the short-lived comedy "On Our Own."  Jones also turned up in episodes of "Amazing Stories," "The Sopranos," and "Law & Order," and appeared in such features as "Awakening," "In & Out," and "The Village."

Jones earned critical praise for a recent TV appearance, where he played a patient with Parkinson's disease on a 2021 episode of "New Amsterdam." Jones himself was diagnosed with the disease around 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times, but has remained active on television and on stage.

Lisa Howard was John Mahoney's first disastrous date in Moonstruck

While working up the courage to propose to Loretta at their dinner date, Johnny overhears an argument between college professor Perry (played by John Mahoney) and a student, Patricia (Lisa Howard), with whom he has become romantically entangled. Perry's disdainful treatment of Patricia causes her to storm out of the restaurant, which Johnny finds amusing. Loretta, however, makes note of their mismatched natures –- something that she herself will have to overcome with Ronny.

One of several Canadian actors cast in the film, which shot much of its interiors in Toronto, Lisa Howard worked in Canadian TV and minor features prior to "Moonstruck." American television soon came calling with recurring roles on "Days of Our Lives" and "Wings," as well as a brief run as a love interest of Duncan McLeod on "Highlander: The Series."

Howard worked steadily on TV in the late '90s, amassing credits on "Cybill" and "Suddenly Susan" and co-starring in the first two seasons of the Gene Roddenberry-inspired "Earth: Final Conflict." Her final credit to date appears to be a 2012 episode of the short-lived medical procedural "Body of Proof" with Dana Delaney.

Bad Date #2: Cynthia Dale tossed a drink in John Mahoney's face.

Canadian actress Cynthia Dale played Sheila, another romantic connection for John Mahoney's who ends their dinner date by hurling a drink in his smug face. Olympia Dukakis's Rose sees the incident and invites Perry to join her; the encounter gives her insight into her husband, Cosmo, and his own philandering issues.

Dale began her career at the age of five in a stage production in Toronto and added television appearance on various Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) productions. Dale made her feature film debut in the original "My Bloody Valentine," and co-starred with Nicolas Cage in the Canadian drama "The Boy in Blue" before joining the cast of "Moonstruck." A year later, she joined the cast of the Canadian legal drama "Street Legal," and remained with the series until the end of its lengthy run in 1994. 

In 2019, Dale reprised her role as lawyer Olivia Novak in a limited-run revival of "Street Legal." Dale remains active on Canadian TV, and she earned a producer credit on the 2009 TV-movie "Christmas Dreams." She also continues to work on stage and as a recording artist, and served as a judge on the Canadian TV competition series "Triple Sensation."

Screen tough guy Frank Gio took a gentle turn for Moonstruck

Blink and you might miss Frank Gio as a florist in "Moonstruck." It's an uncharacteristically relaxed role for the Bronx native, who was a boxer before moving into features and television in the 1970s. Though occasionally uncredited for his work, Gio lent invaluable street credibility and grit to roles in crime films and thrillers like "Serpico," William Friedkin's underrated "Sorcerer," Abel Ferrara's "King of New York," and Sergio Leone's epic "Once Upon a Time in America."

Gio also worked in action films like William Lustig's "Vigilante," with Robert Forster, and "Assassination Tango," with Robert Duvall, as well as comedies like "My Blue Heaven," Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob," and Harold Ramis's "Analyze That," which reunited him with "America" co-star Robert DeNiro. Gio's small screen roles included numerous TV movies and episodes of crime-driven series like "The Equalizer."

Ann McDonough is part of an acting family with Betty Gilpin

Actress Ann McDonough appears briefly in "Moonstruck," though she's enjoyed a lengthy acting career in multiple mediums. McDonough began on the Broadway stage before venturing into screen acting in the late 1970s. She navigated appearances on series like "Kate and Allie" and "The Equalizer" and character roles in films like "Men Don't Leave," "Lorenzo's Oil," and "Six Degrees of Separation" while also remaining active in New York theater (including a 2002 Broadway turn in "Dinner with Eight" with Joe Grifasi). McDonough also enjoyed a four-year run on "All My Children" and multiple appearances on the "Law & Order" franchise titles.

McDonough continued to work in features and on television and stage into the 21st century, most notably in features like "The Kitchen." Married to veteran actor Jack Gilpin –- with whom she appeared in the 2007 feature "The Life Before Her Eyes" –- their daughter is Emmy-nominated actress Betty Gilpin of "GLOW" and "The Tomorrow War."