Darlene Cates played Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio's mother in 1993 movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" -- and while her role is best remembered because of her size, Cates says she's now 240 pounds lighter!

In a video interview with the Dallas Morning News, Cates says she's gone from 575 pounds to 331 and would really like to get back into acting.

"I'm not opposed to doing science fiction or comedy, but there has to be respect," Cates says. "I refuse to be the joke, the fat woman joke, in any movie. I've turned down roles."

And while she wants to get back into the biz, she's still got a few things standing in her way.

Cates tells the Dallas Morning News that she still can't walk after "four surgeries and three near-death experiences" that kept her in the hospital from December 2010-November 2011.

Her goal: To be wheelchair-ready for her grandson's confirmation this October.

Of her role in "Grape," Cates says "God's hand was so at work in it, because a 500lb 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? Yeah, I'd say that was a real big miracle."

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