In 1987, Cher was still better known for her singing than acting, but when Moonstruck was released, she became a full-fledged movie star.
Moonstruck was released in December 1987 in NYC, and then nationally in January 1988. It was nominated for six Oscars at the 60th Academy Awards, winning for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.
In Moonstruck, Cher plays Loretta Castorini, a widow living with her Sicilian family in Brooklyn. Despite being superstitious about love, she agrees to marry Johnny Cammareri, played by Danny Aiello, until she meets his jaded brother Ronny, played by Nicholas Cage, agrees to see La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera House with him, and soon realizes “I love him awful”.
Director Norman Jewison labeled his film: “an operatic multi-generational romantic comedy”, which is just one reason that it grossed an impressive $100,000,000 and won Oscars for Cher, Olympia Dukakis and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley.
30 years ago, Cher wasn’t new to film work; she had been nominated for an Academy Award for Silkwood (1984), but she was worried that her fans still wouldn’t take her seriously as an actor. Just months before Moonstruck was released, The Witches Of Eastwick and Suspect were hits at the box-office, so her movie career was hot. Cher:
”It wasn’t like Mask (1985), which I felt I just had to do. I was a little frightened because there seemed to be all kinds of possibilities and all kinds of risks here. I wondered if, at this point in my career when there might be some people out there interested in seeing my movies, they would accept me in this role.”
In the film, the ”before” Loretta is a dowdy gray-haired woman and the ”after” is when she falls in love with Ronny. Cher:
”But, I much preferred playing her ‘before” than ”after”. The freedom is not interesting to me because that’s something I know. Yet I don’t think of her as being constrained, exactly. My idea was to play her more as bossy and controlled.”
Cher, is Armenian and Cherokee, and she didn’t know how Italian families behaved. Cher:
”I didn’t come from that kind of family. I really didn’t relate exactly to it, but I had a sense of it, like a distant sense of it. Not like something that you can relate to first hand. I’ve known some families like that and I got feelings of it. After a while I thought I might be able to do this.”
Her Moonstruck family reminded her of her ex-husband’s family. Cher:
”It kind of reminded me of Sonny Bono’s family. Everybody eating and talking and shouting… but you have such good times.”
Cher faced solid competition in the Best Actress category at the Academy Awards 30 years ago: Glenn Close for Fatal Attraction, Holly Hunter for Broadcast News, Sally Kirkland for Anna, and Cher’s friend Meryl Streep for Ironweed. Moonstruck was a contender in several categories that year:
Best Picture, losing to The Last Emperor
Best Director for Jewison, losing to Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor
Best Original Screenplay for Shanley
Best Supporting Actress for Dukakis
Best Supporting Actor for Vincent Gardenia, losing to Sean Connery in The Untouchables
The Oscar was Cher’s first major award, after a 25-year career in music and television. It wasn’t until 2000, that Cher earned her first Grammy Award, Best Dance Recording for Believe. Three years later, Cher won an Emmy Award for her special Cher: The Farewell Tour. With these three awards, Cher remains only a Tony Award away from the coveted title of EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). Only 12 entertainers can claim that achievement so far. Maybe she can play Mame on Broadway; that would be as big a hit as the current revival of Hello, Dolly!.