Louise Fletcher, a late-blooming star whose captivating portrayal as the cruel and calculating Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” won her an Academy Award and set a new bar for cinematic villains, passed away at the age of 88. In the film, she played the role of Nurse Ratched.
According to her agent David Shaul, who spoke to the Associated Press on Friday, Fletcher passed away peacefully in her sleep at her home in Montdurausse, France, surrounded by her family. There was no explanation provided.
After putting her acting career on hold for a number of years in order to raise her children, Fletcher was in her early 40s and relatively unknown when she was chosen for the role opposite Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film by director Milos Forman. Forman had admired her performance in the film “Thieves Like Us,” which was directed by Robert Altman the previous year. She was unaware at the time that several other well-known actresses, such as Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, and Angela Lansbury, had declined the offer.
She stated this in an interview in the year 2004, “I was the last person cast.” “It wasn’t until we were halfway through shooting that I discovered the part had been offered to other actresses who didn’t want to appear that bad on the television,” the narrator said. “It wasn’t until we were halfway through shooting,” the narrator continued.
When it was all said and done, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” became the first movie since “It Happened One Night” in 1934 to win awards for best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best screenplay.
At the ceremony in 1976, while Fletcher was accepting her Oscar, she addressed the audience and said, “It seems as though you all loathed me.”
She then spoke to her parents, who are deaf, by talking and using sign language while they were in Birmingham, Alabama: “I would like to express my gratitude to you for instilling the ability to dream within me. You are seeing the fulfilment of a dream of mine.”
After a brief pause for quiet, there was a roaring round of applause.
Later on that same night, Forman made the witty observation to Fletcher and her co-star, Jack Nicholson, saying, “Now we will all make huge flops.”
After that, Forman went on to helm “Hair,” the film adaptation of the smash popular Broadway musical, which fell short of capturing the charm of the stage production. “Goin’ South,” which Nicholson both directed and starred in, is widely considered to be one of his least successful films. Fletcher agreed to star in the poorly planned sequel to the groundbreaking original film “Exorcist,” titled “The Heretic.”
Finding important roles in Hollywood was significantly more difficult for Fletcher due to her age than it was for her male contemporaries. Despite this, she continued to work nonstop for the majority of the rest of her life. Her other films, which followed “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” included “Mama Dracula,” “Dead Kids,” and “The Boy Who Could Fly.”
She appeared as a guest star on the television programmes “Joan of Arcadia” and “Picket Fences,” and she also played the recurring character of Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” She was nominated for Emmys for each of these performances. In the movie “The Karen Carpenter Story,” which came out in 1989, she played the role of the musical duo’s mother.
In addition, Fletcher’s height was a detriment to her professional life. She was only 5 feet and 10 inches tall, thus she was frequently eliminated from consideration for a role during the auditioning process because she towered over the leading man.
Soon after she graduated from North Carolina State University, Fletcher uprooted her life and headed to the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles.
She started obtaining one-day employment on television programmes like “Wagon Train,” “77 Sunset Strip,” and “The Untouchables” while working during the day as a receptionist in a doctor’s office and studying at night with the well-known actor and teacher Jeff Corey.