Louise Fletcher The Nurse Ratched In “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” Dies At 88

Here you will read, is Louise Fletcher dead or not? To know more start reading: The Alabama native and Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher has passed away. She is most remembered for portraying the cruel Nurse Ratched in the classic film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She died at the age of 88.

Her son Andrew Bick told The Hollywood Reporter that Fletcher died of natural causes on Friday at her home in Montdurausse, France. She had beaten breast cancer twice and was still going strong.

Fletcher, the daughter of deaf parents (for which she gave one of the most moving acceptance speeches in Academy Award history), also played a psychiatrist in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and appeared alongside Peter Falk and a slew of other famous actors in The Cheap Detective (1973).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans may recognize her as Kai Winn Adami, a religious leader, and Emmy voters recognized her for her guest roles on Picket Fences (1996) and Joan of Arcadia (2004).

She has recently been seen in A Perfect Man (2013) with Liev Schreiber and on the Netflix show Girlboss with Britt Robertson, in which she portrayed the role of William H. Macy’s meth-dealing mother on the show.

Fletcher starred alongside Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall in Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us after taking more than a decade off acting to raise her two sons (1974).

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was cast in 1975 by director Milos Forman, who had previously seen her in another film. The film was based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel about life in an Oregon psychiatric institution. “He was watching it to see Shelley Duvall play one of the girls that arrive on the ward on the party night,” Fletcher remembered in a 2016 interview. When he saw who it was, he asked, “Who is that?”

Fletcher got the role of Nurse Ratched a year after Anne Bancroft, Angela Lansbury, Geraldine Page, Colleen Dewhurst, and Ellen Burstyn all turned it down because they thought the character was too unreasonably evil.

The number of times she said she auditioned for the role was impressive. I had no idea that so many other women were saying no. Thankfully for me, many famous people were offered it but declined. Oh, the horror if someone else had accepted!

Louise Fletcher
Louise Fletcher

In the movie, the cold and heartless Ratched humiliates her patients and takes away their rights. She uses shock therapy and ultimately has newcomer Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) lobotomized because she has no control over him.

When Fletcher first observed the audience’s reaction to the scene in Cuckoo’s Nest where McMurphy tries to kill her character, she knew her life would never be the same.

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“It was in Chicago, and there was standing room only,” she said. There were loud cheers and applause from the crowd when he strangled her. They lifted their feet and stood. What happened next defied belief. And I was ecstatic.

The American Film Institute ranked Nurse Ratched as the fifth-greatest movie villain in 2003, following Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Darth Vader, and the Wicked Witch of the West.

When Fletcher heard her name called by presenter Charles Bronson and walked up to the platform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to accept her Oscar, she exclaimed, “Well, it seems like you all disliked me so much that you’ve given me this award for it, and I’m loving every minute of it.” I can only say, “I’ve liked being loathed by you.”

Then she signed, “And if you’ll forgive me: for my mother and father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. What you are witnessing right now is the realization of a lifelong ambition of mine.

Born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, to Rev. Robert C. Fletcher, an Episcopal clergyman, and his wife, Estelle, she was the second of four children. Both had lost their hearing as young children; he after being struck by lightning and she after contracting an ailment. Fletcher said to The New York Times in 1975, “If I fell and harmed myself, I never cried.” “No one was around to listen to me.”

Due to her shyness, her parents sent her to live with an aunt in Texas for several years before moving back to Alabama to attend Ramsay High School in Birmingham and eventually the University of North Carolina, where she earned her B.A. in 1957.

She went to Los Angeles for a vacation and wound up staying, where she now works as a receptionist while taking acting courses from the esteemed instructor Jeff Corey in the evenings.

The 5-foot-10 actress made her film debut alongside Rock Hudson in A Gathering of Eagles (1963) after establishing herself on television dramas including Bat Masterson, Lawman, 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, and Perry Mason.

She left the firm after having her first child, John, in 1961 and her second, Andrew, a year later. Jerry Bick, a literary agent, was her husband. Bick went on to produce films like Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) and Thieves Like Us.

Fletcher initially declined Altman’s offer to appear in Thieves Like Us due to her husband’s involvement. Fletcher attended group therapy sessions at Oregon State Hospital in Salem to better prepare for her role in Cuckoo’s Nest. During the film’s production, she stayed there for eleven weeks.

“She was so out of touch with her feelings that she had no joy in her life and no understanding of the fact that she could be wrong,” she said of Mildred Ratched in an interview with The New York Times. She was a cruel nurse who cared for her insane patients, but she was sure she was doing the right thing.

The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael hailed her performance as “masterful,” The film went on to win four Academy Awards, including for best director, picture, actor, and screenplay. Only It Happened One Night (1934) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) had a complete Oscar sweep (1991).

Fletcher’s acting career was never as successful again. After she and her husband disagreed with director Robert Altman, Lily Tomlin was cast in the character of Linnea, the gospel singing mother of two deaf children in the 1975 film Nashville (and an eventual supporting actress Oscar nom).

Fletcher has appeared in several other films, such as 1979’s The Lady in Red, 1983’s Brainstorm, 1984’s Firestarter, 1986’s Invaders From Mars, 1987’s Flowers in the Attic, 1988’s Two Moon Junction, 1989’s Blue Steel, 1992’s The Player (which got him back in Altman’s good graces), 1995’s Virtuosity, 1996’s High School High, 1999’s Cruel Intentions, and (1999).

Following her divorce from Bick, she made headlines for her rumored relationship with Morgan Mason, a much younger guy.

Her boys and sister Roberta are the only ones left to carry the family name. In 2012, Fletcher acknowledged that she could no longer watch Cuckoo’s Nest, the film in which she is forever renowned for playing Nurse Ratched. She reflected on the episodes, saying, “I was extremely startled at those scenes where I was so nasty.”

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