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Louise Fletcher, the Cruel Nurse Ratched in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ Dies at 88

Louise Fletcher, the sweet actress from Alabama who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the ruthless Nurse Ratched, one of the most reviled characters in movie history, in one flew over the cuckoo’s nest, has died. She was 88 years old.

Fletcher died Friday of natural causes at his home in Montdurausse, France, his son Andrew Bick said. the hollywood reporter. She had survived two episodes of breast cancer.

The daughter of deaf parents, she delivered one of the most moving acceptance speeches in Oscar history, Fletcher also played a psychiatrist in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and performed opposite Peter Falk amidst the star-studded ensemble in the cheap detective (1978).

On television, he played the religious leader Kai Winn Adami in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and received Emmy nominations in 1996 and 2004 for his work as a guest star on picket fences Y Joan of Arcadiarespectively.

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She recently played William H. Macy’s meth-dealing mother in Shameless and appeared in Liev Schreiber’s film a perfect man (2013) and in the Netflix series girl bossstarring Britt Robertson.

After spending more than a decade away from show business to raise her two children, Fletcher returned to Hollywood, appearing opposite Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall in the Robert Altman film. thieves like us (1974).

Director Milos Forman, then casting 1975 one flew over the cuckoo’s nest —based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 book about life in an Oregon mental hospital—he saw her in that movie.

“I was watching it to see Shelley Duvall play one of the girls that comes into the room on the night of the party, and there I was,” Fletcher recalled in a 2016 interview. “He was like, ‘Who’s that? ?’ “

A year later, after Anne Bancroft, Angela Lansbury, Geraldine Page, Colleen Dewhurst, and Ellen Burstyn turned down the chance to play Nurse Ratched (many of them believing the character to be incredibly evil), Forman finally gave the role to Fletcher.

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“I tried many, many times,” he said. “I didn’t realize so many other women were turning him down. It was offered to many movie stars who turned it down, lucky for me. Think, what if someone else had said yes?

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In the film, the icy Ratched humiliates her patients and revokes their privileges on a whim. When she can’t control a newcomer, Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), she administers shock therapy and then lobotomizes him.

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

“It was in Chicago, and the house was full,” he recalled. “When he strangles her, the audience jumped to their feet and screamed and cheered. She got up. It was incredible. I was excited.”

In its 2003 list of the 100 greatest villains in movie annals, 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 host Charles Bronson call her name and take the stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to accept her Oscar, she said, “Well, it seems like everyone hated me so much they gave me this award.” , and I love every minute of it. And all I can say is that I loved being hated.

Then he paid tribute to his parents: “And if you’ll excuse me [using sign language]: To my mother and father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true.”

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The second of four children, she was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, to an Episcopalian minister, the Rev. Robert C. Fletcher, and his wife, Estelle. Both had lost their hearing when they were children, he when he was struck by lightning, she because of an illness.

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

She was extremely shy, and her parents sent her to an aunt in Texas, where she lived for part of 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 acting classes at night with acclaimed teacher Jeff Corey. (Robert Blake was a fellow student).

After landing a steady job on TV shows like bat masterson, law man, 77 sunset strip, train car Y perry masonThe 5-foot-10 actress made her big-screen debut in the war movie a gathering of eagles (1963), starring Rock Hudson.

She had her son John in 1961, and a year later, while pregnant with Andrew, she decided to walk away from the business. She was married to Jerry Bick, a literary agent who would go on to produce movies like Altman’s the long goodbye (1973) and thieves like us.

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Fletcher said he didn’t want to appear on thieves like us due to 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 movie was filmed. She spent 11 weeks at the facility during the making of the film.

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

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Paulina Kael from the new yorker called his performance “masterful”, and the film also won Oscars for best director, picture, actor and screenplay, a sweep matched only by it happened one night (1934) and The silence of the lambs (1991).

Fletcher never again approached such acting greatness.

The role of Linnea, the mother of two deaf children who sings gospel 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 an eventual Oscar nomination for supporting actress).

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Fletcher appeared in other films, including the lady in red (1979), Great idea (1983), fire starter (1984), invaders from mars (1986), Flowers in the Attic (1987), crossing of two moons (1988), blue steel (1989), The player (1992) – back in good hands with Altman – Virtuosity (nineteen ninety five), Secondary Secondary (nineteen ninety six), Mulholland Falls (nineteen ninety six), cruel intentions (1999) and a map of the world (1999).

After she and Bick divorced, she made tabloid headlines by being romantically involved with the much younger Morgan Mason. (Son of British actor James Mason, he later married singer Belinda Carlisle).

In addition to her children, survivors include her sister, Roberta.

Always known for playing Nurse Ratched, Fletcher noted in 2012 that she could no longer bear to see herself in cuckoo’s nest. “I was really shocked at those scenes where he was actually so cruel,” she said.

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