Louise Fletcher, Oscar winner for ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ dies at 88

Louise Fletcher died at the age of 88. She was a late-blooming star whose performance as Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set a new standard for screen villains and won her an Academy Award.

Her agent, David Shaul, told The Associated Press on Friday that Fletcher died in her sleep at her home in Montdurausse, France, surrounded by her family. There was no explanation.

After putting her career on hold for many years to raise her children, Fletcher was in her early 40s and not very well known when director Milos Forman chose her for the role opposite Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film. Forman had seen her work in Robert Altman’s “Thieves Like Us” the year before and liked it. At the time, she didn’t know that Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, and Angela Lansbury, among other famous actors, had turned it down.

In a 2004 interview, she said, “I was the last person cast.” “I didn’t find out that other actresses had been offered the part until we were halfway through filming. They didn’t want to look so bad on screen. “

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” went on to become the first movie since 1934’s “It Happened One Night” to win the best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best screenplay. When Fletcher won an Oscar in 1976, she said to the crowd, “It looks like you all hated me.”

She then talked and signed to her deaf parents in Birmingham, Alabama. “I want to thank you for teaching me to have a dream,” she said. You’re seeing me live out my dream. “

After a moment of silence, people cheered loudly. Later that night, Forman told Fletcher and her co-star, Jack Nicholson, in a witty way, “Now we’re all going to make terrible flops.” At least in the short term, he was right.

Oscar-winning actress Louise Fletcher, 88, dies.

Next, Forman directed the movie version of the hit Broadway musical “Hair,” which didn’t have the same appeal as the stage show. “Goin ‘South,” which he both directed and starred in, is generally thought to be one of his worst movies. Fletcher agreed to be in “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” a bad follow-up to the groundbreaking original.

Fletcher’s age made it much harder for her to get big roles in Hollywood than it did for her male peers. Still, she never stopped working for the rest of her life. “Mama Dracula,” “Dead Kids,” and “The Boy Who Could Fly” were some of the movies she did after “Cuckoo’s Nest.”

She had guest roles on “Joan of Arcadia” and “Picket Fences,” for which she was nominated for Emmys, and she played Kai Winn Adami, the religious leader of the Bajorans, in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” for which she was nominated again and again. In “The Karen Carpenter Story,” a movie from 1989, she played the mother of the music duo, the Carpenters.

The fact that Fletcher was so tall also hurt her career. She was only 5 feet 10 inches tall, so she was often kicked out of auditions right away because she was taller than her leading man. Soon after she graduated from North Carolina State University, Fletcher moved to Los Angeles to start her acting career.

She got one-day jobs on TV shows like “Wagon Train,” “77 Sunset Strip,” and “The Untouchables” while working as a receptionist for a doctor during the day and studying at night with actor and teacher Jeff Corey.

Fletcher got married to producer Jerry Bick in the early 1960s, and soon after, she had two sons. She stopped working for 11 years because she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. In a 2004 interview, she said, “I chose to stop working, but I didn’t see it as a choice.” I couldn’t help but stay at home.

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