‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ Actress Was 88 – The Hollywood Reporter

Louise Fletcher, the sweet Alabama actress who won an Oscar for her role as the heartless Nurse Ratched – one of the most reviled characters in film history – in Flight over a cuckoo’s nest, is dead. She was 88 years old.

Fletcher died Friday of natural causes at her home in Montdurausse, France, her son Andrew Bick said. The Hollywood Reporter. She had survived two episodes of breast cancer.

The daughter of deaf parents – she gave one of the most touching acceptance speeches in Oscars history – Fletcher also starred as a psychiatrist in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and starred alongside Peter Falk amid the star-studded set of The Cheap Detective (1978).

On television, she portrayed religious leader Kai Winn Adami on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and received Emmy Award nominations in 1996 and 2004 for her stints as a guest on Palisades and Joan of Arcadiarespectively.

Most recently, she played William H. Macy’s meth-dealing mother in Shameless and appeared in Liev Schreiber’s film A perfect man (2013) and on the Netflix series Friendwith Britt Robertson.

After spending more than a decade away from show business raising her two sons, Fletcher returned to Hollywood and appeared alongside Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall in Robert Altman’s film. Thieves like us (1974).

Director Milos Forman, then 1975s cast Flight over a cuckoo’s nest — based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 book about life in an Oregon mental hospital — spotted her in this film.

“He was watching it to watch Shelley Duvall play one of the girls that comes into the service on the night of the party, and I was there,” Fletcher recalled in a 2016 interview. “He said, ‘Who is- this ?’ “

A year later, after Anne Bancroft, Angela Lansbury, Geraldine Page, Colleen Dewhurst and Ellen Burstyn all rejected the chance to play Nurse Ratched – with many believing the character was too incredibly evil – Forman finally gave the role to Fletcher .

“I tried many times,” she said. “I didn’t realize that a lot of other women were refusing. They offered it to many movie stars who declined, luckily for me. Thinking, what if someone else had said yes? »

In the film, the frosty Ratched humiliates her patients and revokes their privileges on a whim. When she fails to control a newcomer, Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), she administers shock therapy to him, then has him lobotomized.

Fletcher knew her life had changed forever when she watched cuckoo’s nest with an audience for the first time and saw how people reacted to a scene in which McMurphy tries to kill his character.

“It was in Chicago, and it was a packed house,” she recalls. “When he strangled her, the audience stood up, screamed and clapped. Stand up. It was unbelievable. I was thrilled.

On its 2003 list of the 100 greatest villains of the annals of cinema, the American Film Institute placed Nurse Ratched at No. 5, behind only Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Darth Vader and the Wicked Witch of the West. (Sarah Paulson recently revived the character in a Ryan Murphy prequel series for Netflix.)

After Fletcher heard her name called by presenter Charles Bronson and took the stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to accept her Oscar, she said, “Well, it looks like you all hate me so much you gave me this price for it, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. And all I can say is that I loved being hated by you.

She then paid tribute to her parents: “And if you will excuse me [using sign language]: To my mom and dad, I want to say thank you for teaching me to dream. You see my dream come true.

The second of four children, she was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, to an Episcopal minister, the Reverend Robert C. Fletcher, and his wife, Estelle. They had both lost their hearing when they were children, he when he was struck by lightning, she by disease.

“If I fell and hurt myself, I never cried,” Fletcher said The New York Times in 1975. “There was no one to hear me.”

She was extremely shy and her parents sent her to an aunt’s home in Texas, where she lived for several years before attending Ramsay High School in Birmingham and then graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1957 .

She took a trip to Los Angeles with friends and decided to stay, working as a receptionist while taking evening acting classes with famed teacher Jeff Corey. (Robert Blake was a classmate.)

After getting regular work on TV shows such as Bat Masterson, man of the law, 77 Sunset Band, Train car and Perry Masonthe 5ft 10in actress made her big screen debut in the war movie A gathering of eagles (1963), with Rock Hudson.

She had a son John in 1961 and, while pregnant with Andrew a year later, she decided to retire from the business. She was married to Jerry Bick, a literary agent who would produce films like Altman’s The long goodbye (1973) and Thieves like us.

Fletcher said she didn’t want to appear in Thieves like us because of her husband’s involvement, but Altman insisted.

To prepare for his role in cuckoo’s nest, Fletcher observed group therapy sessions at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, where the film was shot. She spent 11 weeks at the facility while the film was being made.

In her New York Times interview, she described Mildred Ratched: “She was so out of touch with her feelings that she had no joy in her life and no idea that she could be wrong. She cared for her insane patients in a murderous way, but she was convinced she was right.

Pauline Kael from the new yorker called his performance “masterful” and the film also won the Academy Awards for Best Director, Picture, Actor and Screenplay, a sweep matched only by It happened one night (1934) and Thesilenceofthelambs (1991).

Fletcher never approached such acting greatness again.

The role of Linnea, the gospel-singing mother of two deaf children in Nashville (1975), was created with her in mind, but she and her husband had a falling out with Altman, and Lily Tomlin got the part (and eventual Oscar-nominated supporting actress).

Fletcher has appeared in other films, including The lady in red (1979), genius idea (1983), Fire starter (1984), Invaders from Mars (1986), Flowers in the attic (1987), Junction of the Two Moons (1988), blue steel (1989), The player (1992) – back in favor with Altman – Virtuosity (1995), high school high school (1996), Mulholland Falls (1996), cruel intentions (1999) and A world map (1999).

After she and Bick divorced, she made tabloid headlines by having a romantic relationship with the much younger Morgan Mason. (Son of British actor James Mason, he married singer Belinda Carlisle.)

In addition to his sons, survivors include his sister, Roberta.

Still known for playing Nurse Ratched, Fletcher noted in 2012 that she couldn’t stand watching herself in cuckoo’s nest. “I was really shocked in those scenes where I was actually so cruel,” she said.

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