29/03/2017 11:22 BST | Updated 29/03/2017 11:27 BST

Leonardo DiCaprio Pays Sweet Tribute To 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' Co-Star Darlene Cates, Who's Died Aged 69

Leo called her his best "acting mom".

Leonardo DiCaprio has paid sweet tribute to one of his very first co-stars - the actress Darlene Cates, who has died aged 69. 

The Oscar-winning actor called his ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ co-star “the best acting mom I ever had” following news of the actress’s death. 

Leo made his name playing the late actress’s son in the 1993 indie hit. Following the news of her death on Tuesday, he remembered her as “the best acting mom I ever had the privilege of working alongside”.

He continued: “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.”

Leo with his 'Gilbert Grape' co-star Darlene Cates, who he paid tribute to, following her death on Sunday

Darlene died in her sleep aged 69 at the weekend, it was announced by her sister Sheri Cates Morgan, who added: “We take comfort in knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father.”

Darlene had suffered from morbid obesity for years, and was reportedly cast in the movie after screenwriter spotted her vibrant personality on a talk show episode about people “Too Heavy To Leave Their House”.

The actress revealed how obesity had affected her life, following childhood overeating and a pelvic infection which had caused her to gain more than 150 pounds. She continued to struggle with weight for the rest of her life.

In the film that made her name, she played Leo’s housebound mother, and took several other screen roles, including a small part in the 2001 film ‘Wolf Girl’. 

Photo gallery RIP: Stars We Lost In 2017 See Gallery