Hollywood veteran Louise Fletcher, the iconic actress who won an Oscar for her performance as Nurse Ratched in Milos Forman’s infamous “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” has died. Her agent, David Shaul, confirmed that Fletcher died Friday at her home in France. The late actress was 88 years old.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a classic film that won five Oscar awards in 1976 and was the first movie in over four decades to win five major categories at the ceremony. In his memoir, the film’s director Milos Forman revealed he chose Fletcher for her role after seeing her performance in “Thieves Like Us.”
— Cameron (@CamBNewton) September 24, 2022
At some point in her career, Fletcher was typecast for villain roles. She later acquitted herself in several movie performances, “The Cheap Detective,” “Cruel Intentions,” and “Natural Enemies.” The actress married Jerry Bick, a producer, and literary agent, and they had two sons.
Read on to find out more.
Louise Fletcher’s Groundbreaking Role As Nurse Ratched
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was a film based on Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name. It explores the relationship between the patients and staff of a psych ward, particularly a wicked nurse, Nurse Ratched (played by Fletcher). The film won five Oscar awards in 1976, including best picture, actor, and actress.
Louise Fletcher, who won the best actress Oscar for her indelible performance as Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," died Friday. She was 88. https://t.co/k4XhjapZkK pic.twitter.com/qTwJAqNhvm
— Variety (@Variety) September 24, 2022
That night, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” also became the first film in over four decades to make a clean sweep at the Oscars, winning five major categories. It also received four additional nominations and was a huge hit at the box office. A film review by The New Yorker called Fletcher’s performance “a masterly performance.”
It read, “We can see the virginal expectancy — the purity — that has turned into puffy-eyed self-righteousness. She thinks she’s doing good for people, and she’s hurt — she feels abused — if her authority is questioned.”
The Director Chose Louise Fletcher After Seeing Her Amazing Performance In This Movie
At the time of Fletcher’s casting as Nurse Ratched, the actress hadn’t created a high profile for herself in Hollywood. She had just returned to the film scene after taking almost a decade as a break to raise her kids. Her first return role was in 1974’s “Thieves Like Us” and was praised as an “impressively strong” performance.
By that time, several more high-profile actresses, such as Anne Bancroft, Angela Lansbury, and Colleen Dewhurst, had all rejected the role of Nurse Ratched, worried that it would negatively affect their careers. The film’s director Milos Forman then watched “Thieves Like Us” and was impressed by Fletcher’s performance.
In his memoir, Forman wrote about how he chose Fletcher. He wrote, “She was all wrong for the [Ratched] role, but there was something about her. I asked her to read with me and suddenly, beneath the velvety exterior, I discovered a toughness and willpower that seemed tailored for the role.”
Louise Fletcher Was Typecast For Villain Roles
Unfortunately, Flecther’s performance in the film was so good that it created a typecast for her villainous film roles. In a review of her 1987 film, “Flowers in the Attic,” the Washington Post wrote, “Fletcher should talk to her agent about these stereotyped ‘evil’ roles, in which she has become increasingly tedious.”
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The actress subsequently proved that her acting abilities surpassed villainous roles. She had lighter and more dramatic roles in films such as “The Cheap Detective,” “Natural Enemies,” “Cruel Intentions,” “Firestarter,” and “Brainstorm.”
A review of her performance in “Natural Enemies” from film critic Richard Winters highlighted how Fletcher had perfected acting in roles “opposite of her Nurse Ratched character.” He wrote, “Here she is vulnerable and fragile instead of rigid and authoritative and even has a scene inside a mental hospital as a patient. The fact that she can play such different characters so solidly proves what a brilliant actress she is.”
She Married Jerry Bick And Had Two Kids
In 1955, Fletcher married Jerry Bick, a film producer, and Hollywood literary agent, and they had two sons, John and Andrew. Fletcher and Bick divorced in 1978, and he later died in 2004. With her death, the actress left behind her sons, her sister, Roberta, and one granddaughter.
Fletcher’s life story was once used as the inspiration for one of the lead characters in Robert Altman’s 1975 film “Nashville.” She was meant to play the character in the film, but Bick and Altman had a falling out, and the plans were scrapped.