LOS ANGELES-Hollywood icon Leonardo Dicaprio has described Darlene Cates as the ''best acting mom I ever had''.

The Academy Award-winning star appeared alongside Darlene in the 1993 drama movie 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' and DiCaprio - who played her on-screen son in the film - has taken to Facebook to post a glowing tribute to his former co-star.

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 acclaimed movie, which also starred the likes of Johnny Depp and Juliette Lewis.

Meanwhile, news of Darlene dying ''peacefully in her sleep'' on Sunday (26.03.17) was confirmed by her daughter Sheri on Facebook.

She wrote: ''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 Savior, Jesus. (Dancing was something she talked about loving to do ''back in the day''!)

In 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape', Darlene played a morbidly obese mother called Bonnie. She secured the role after being spotted by the film's screenwriter Peter Hedges, who first saw the actress on the 'Sally Jessy Raphael' talk show, where she was speaking about her own weight struggles. While Darlene is best known for her role in 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape', she also made numerous other on-screen appearances, including roles in the TV series 'Picket Fences' and 'Touched by an Angel'.