Louise Fletcher, who won an Oscar for her unforgettable performance as Nurse Ratched in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ has died aged 88.
As her son Andrew Bick announced to the Hollywood Reporter, it was this Friday, September 23 that Louise Fletcher died at her home in Montdurausse, France. She had survived breast cancer with a recurrence. Died of natural causes, she was 88 years old.
THE ROLE OF HIS LIFE
Winner of the 1976 Best Actress Oscar for her subtle and even emotional portrayal of the cruel and despicable nurse Mildred Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) – an adaptation by Milos Forman of the same novel name of Ken Kesey –, Louise Fletcher definitely marked the world of cinema, today in mourning.
Her acceptance speech at the prestigious ceremony will be remembered in particular: she used American Sign Language to thank her deaf parents – while thanking the public for hating her!
The feature film, which enjoyed substantial box office success, also won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson and Best Adapted Screenplay, and was thus the first to win the famous statuette in all major categories for 4 decades – a true classic that has enshrined the actress forever.
Her character is so cult that Nurse Ratched was named the 5th greatest villain in cinematic history by the American Film Institute. But this legendary role, several well-known actresses had previously turned down, fearing a possible negative effect on their careers, but after seeing Fletcher in Milos Forman’s We Are All Thieves in 1974 made up his mind. In his memoirs, he will speak later about the actress.
She had it all wrong for the role [Ratched], but there was something in it. I asked her to read with me and suddenly, beneath the velvety exterior, I discovered a tenacity and drive that seemed suited to the role. – Milos Forman
A CAREER ON ALL FRONTS
Recently appeared in the feature film A Perfect Man (2013) by Kees Van Oostrum, with Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn, Louise Fletcher has never ceased to amaze.
It is on the small screen that she started and on the small screen that she has most recently played: more precisely in 2017 in two Girlboss episodes on Netflix. Appearing in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the scheming and deceitful spiritual leader Winn Adami from 1993 to 1999, she also starred in the cult sci-fi series VR.5 from 1995 to 1997 as well as in ER and 7 home in 2005.
Emmy-nominated for guest roles in High Secret City: Secret City in 1996 and Joan’s World in 2004, she also starred as matriarch Peggy “Grammy” Gallagher, a cunning ex-con nevertheless wishing for a relationship with his grandchildren, in Showtime’s Shameless.
After more than a decade of absence to devote herself to her family, Louise Fletcher started playing again in 1974 and then delivered a beautiful and strong performance in We are all thieves by Robert Altman, but when she was chosen to play Ratched, the actress did not yet have a great reputation in Hollywood – which was about to change.
After this key role, her career rocked and the actress did not fail to diversify as in the black parody of 1978, The Private of these ladies with Peter Falk, or in the drama of 1979, Natural Enemies, in which she played, opposite Hal Holbrook, a vulnerable and fragile character without difficulty.
Other credits for the actress include Sex Intentions (1999), in which she played a genial and warm-hearted Long Island aristocrat, The Exorcist 2 – The Heretic (1977) starring Richard Burton and Linda Blair, Brainstorm (1983) with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood, Charlie (1984) featuring a very young Drew Barrymore or Two Days in Los Angeles (1996) by John Herzfeld.
WOMAN’S LIFE AND ON-SCREEN DEBUT
Estelle Louise Fletcher was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents being deaf, she was introduced to the theater by the aunt who taught her to speak when she was 8 years old. Fletcher attended the University of North Carolina and it was after taking a trip across the country that she found herself stranded in Los Angeles and quickly launched into an acting career.
For the budding actress, it all started in 1958 with a small role on television in the series Flight. The following year, she made appearances in Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and Les Incorruptibles. Appearing twice in Perry Mason in 1960, she gave up for her career in 1963 after making her debut on the big screen in Delbert Mann’s The Red Telephone.
In 1973, after raising her children, she resumed her profession with an appearance in the series Doctors today. A TV movie later, the actress is finally chosen to play a supporting role in the famous We are all thieves by Robert Altman – which her husband, Jerry Bick, notably produces.
The story of Fletcher’s full and fulfilled life was the inspiration for one of the main characters in Robert Altman’s 1975 classic Nashville: she should have played the role then, but at the time Bick and Altman fell out and this role eluded him.
Louise Fletcher was indeed married to Jerry Bick, a Hollywood literary agent who was also later a producer, from 1959 to 1978. He died in 2004. She is survived by her sons John Dashiell Bick and Andrew Wilson Bick.