More than 20 years since she played the depressed, morbidly overweight mother of Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," Darlene Cates is about half the woman she used to be after a 250-pound weight loss.

Cates, 64, has dropped 40 percent of the 575 pounds she weighed around the time "Gilbert Grape" was released in 1993. She now weighs 331 pounds and is looking to get back into film since her movie debut in the Johnny Depp-Leonardo DiCaprio drama.

The 64-year-old is best known for her role as mother Bonnie Grape in "Gilbert Grape," where she was the head of a dysfunctional family that included Depp and a young DiCaprio who played a mentally disabled boy. She hasn't returned to film since, although she had small television roles in "Picket Fences," "Touched by an Angel," and "Wolf Girl."

Cates told the Dallas Morning News that she yearns to act again after her weight loss, but health problems have prevented her from pursuing that dream. The paper has pictures of the "Gilbert Grape" actress' weight loss here.

She told the paper she had a number of "health scares" that lander her in the hospital from December 2010 to November 2011.

Forney had to undergo four surgeries due to her health issues and had three "near-death experiences," which prompted her to lose 250 pounds.

Cates said she thinks of her role in "Gilbert Grape" as an inspiration to others with weight problems.

I realized "how God had used me to touch other people and give them courage by what I did," Cates told the Morning News. "And that gave them courage to put themselves out there more."

Cates appeared on an episode of the talk show "Sally Jesse Raphael" that delved into women who were too heavy to leave their homes. The appearance caught the eye of casting directors and led her to get the part of Bonnie Grape.

The 64-year-old said she believed divine intervention was at hand.

"You know, God's hand was so at work in it because a 500-pound woman that didn't want to leave her house and had lived in shame and worthlessness for so many years, and the next thing you know she's making a movie with Johnny Depp," Cates told the Morning News. "Yeah, I'd say that was a real big miracle."

Cates said she received letters from people who say, "I will never look at a fat person the same way as I did before" since viewing "Gilbert Grape.

"That did it for me, to know that something you've been a part of had that profound an effect on somebody. It altered my life. They're saying it altered their life, but it altered my life," she said.

As far as her acting future, Cates said she's not opposed to appearing in sci-fi or comedic roles, "but there has to be respect. I refuse to be the joke, the fat woman joke in any movie and I've turned down roles.

"If you're wanting to make a movie about somebody who's lived my life or worse .... Great," she said.