Farewell to One of Film's Greatest Villains

Oscar winner Louise Fletcher, Nurse Ratched in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' dies at 88
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 24, 2022 10:15 AM CDT

Louise Fletcher, the actress who won an Academy Award for playing Nurse Ratched in Milos Forman's 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, has died at the age of 88, reports ABC7. She died in her sleep at her home in Montdurausse, France, of unspecified causes, agent David Shaul told Deadline. Fletcher's career stretched over six decades, starting in television in the late 1950s on episodic TV series, including The Untouchables and Maverick. Fletcher first found her way onto the silver screen with 1963's A Gathering of Eagles, but it was the performance in her next film more than a decade later, Thieves Like Us, that caught the eye of Forman, who was casting for Cuckoo's Nest, based on Ken Kesey's 1962 novel about patients in a psych ward and the domineering nurse who oversaw them.

The role of the sadistic Mildred Ratched, who sparred most memorably with the Jack Nicholson character Randle McMurphy, earned Fletcher a best actress Oscar. "So indelible was her portrayal that in 2020, the ... Netflix series Ratched—a prequel of sorts to the novel and film, with Sarah Paulson in the starring role—would need only the single-word title to evoke the sense of dread and cruelty conveyed by Fletcher decades earlier," Deadline notes. Fletcher's Ratched was deemed the fifth-greatest villain in film history by the American Film Institute TV special "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Heroes & Villains," behind only Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Darth Vader, and the Wicked Witch of the West, per Variety.

Also memorable about Fletcher was her Oscar acceptance speech, in which she used American Sign Language to thank her parents, both deaf. In her later years, Fletcher went on to appear in TV series such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ER, Shameless, Picket Fences, and Joan of Arcadia, the latter two earning her Emmy nominations. She most recently was seen in the Netflix comedy series Girlboss, per the New York Times. Fletcher is survived by her two sons, John and Andrew Bick, from her marriage to late ex-husband Jerry Bick; one granddaughter; a sister and brother-in-law; and 10 nieces and nephews. (Read more One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest stories.)

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