Louise Fletcher, Oscar-winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest actress, dies at 88
Louise Fletcher, the veteran actress who won an Oscar for her performance as the ruthless and menacing psychiatric ward administrator Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, has died. She was 88.
The actress "died peacefully in her sleep surrounded by family at her home" in Montdurasse, France, her agent David Shaul confirmed to EW. A cause of death was not revealed.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., to deaf parents, Fletcher began her acting career appearing on television shows throughout the 1950s, including Lawman, Bat Masterson, Maverick, and The Untouchables.
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic Louise Fletcher
After taking a decade-long break in the early '60s to raise her two children, Fletcher returned to the silver screen as Mattie in Robert Altman's 1974 crime drama Thieves Like Us — a role that caught the attention of director Milos Forman, who later cast her as the villainous nurse in his adaptation of Ken Kesey's hit 1962 novel.
As Nurse Ratched, Fletcher ruled the fictional Salem State Hospital with an iron fist, manipulating patients and frequently clashing with Jack Nicholson's Randle McMurphy, the devious convict faking insanity to avoid prison. Her portrayal of the vicious health advisor earned her an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 1976 Academy Awards, during which she made waves by using American Sign Language to thank her parents in her acceptance speech.
"For my mother and my father, I want to say thank you for teaching me to have a dream," she signed. "You are seeing my dream come true." Fletcher also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the role.
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Louise Fletcher in her Oscar-winning role as Nurse Ratched in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'
The legacy of Nurse Ratched continues, and, more than 45 years later, inspired its own Netflix origin story for the character (played by Sarah Paulson), Ratched, which ran for a single season in 2020.
After gaining mainstream recognition, Fletcher continued to star in various film and television projects throughout the next 40 years, appearing as the grandmother in the 1987 horror film Flowers in the Attic and Aunt Helen in 1999's Cruel Intentions, and holding a long-running stint as Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the '90s. Her final role was in the Netflix comedy series Girlboss in 2017.
Following news of her death, Marlee Matlin — who worked with Fletcher on the 1996 series Picket Fences — penned a tribute to the actress. "Sad to read of the passing of Louise Fletcher," she tweeted. "Brilliant actress & Academy Award winner. I remember her as the daughter of Deaf parents (CODA) who was the FIRST to sign her acceptance speech at the Oscars. And she was so lovely as my mother on 'Picket Fences.' RIP dear Louise."
Sad to read of the passing of Louise Fletcher. Brilliant actress & Academy Award winner, I remember her as the daughter of Deaf parents (CODA) who was the FIRST to sign her acceptance speech at the Oscars. And she was so lovely as my mother on “Picket Fences.” RIP dear Louise. pic.twitter.com/e9om1R4DtW
— Marlee Matlin (@MarleeMatlin) September 24, 2022