Louise Fletcher, Oscar-Winning One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Actor, Has Died

Louise Fletcher, best known for her Academy Award-winning role as Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," has died at the age of 88. Fletcher's family confirmed to Deadline through her agent that she died in her sleep at her home in Montdurausse, France, on Friday.

Fletcher was born to deaf parents in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 23, 1934. She learned to speak and act from her aunt at the age of 8, and attended the University of North Carolina before a cross-country trip left her marooned in L.A. (per Variety). There, she became involved in acting in a professional capacity, appearing on television in guest spots on shows like "The Untouchables," "Wagon Train," and "Perry Mason." However, her filmography soon went dark in 1963 with the film "A Gathering of Eagles."

Fletcher was one of the interviewees in Peter Biskind's book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood," which relates how she had been absent from the screen for over a decade when director Robert Altman convinced her to take on the role of Mattie in his 1974 film "Thieves Like Us." The book further relates how Fletcher was supposed to appear in Altman's follow-up film, "Nashville," as the character Linnea Reese, whose family identity as the mother of two deaf children was inspired by Fletcher's life.

The role went to Lily Tomlin instead, which left Fletcher blindsided. Yet she was vindicated when she was cast as Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," a role that won her the Oscar for Best Actress and would later be recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the top five movie villains of all time, sharing company with Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Darth Vader, and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Fletcher's career after her Academy Award win

In her Oscar acceptance speech, which you can see above, Fletcher thanked her parents in sign language. She was later nominated for two Emmys when she guest-starred on "Picket Fences" and "Joan of Arcadia." "Star Trek" fans came to know her for recurring 1993–1999 role as the Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami in 14 episodes of "Deep Space Nine." Having guested on "Wagon Train," it was only fitting that she should become part of a franchise that was originally conceived of as "Wagon Train to the stars."

Fletcher's final acting credits were two episodes of the series "Girlboss" in 2017. In a 1995 New York Times article, "Oscar's Glory Is Fleeting. Ask One Who Knows," she recalled how "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" director Milos Forman jokingly predicted that everyone involved in the film was now "going to make flops" after winning. This proved partly true, with Fletcher calling her next film, "The Exorcist II: The Heretic," "a huge flop." She was no stranger to fallow career periods, however, having spent the 11 years between "A Gathering of Eagles" and "Thieves Like Us" raising her sons offscreen. And with Nurse Ratched — who has continued to live on into the 21st century in the Sarah Paulson-led prequel series "Ratched" — she crafted one of the all-time great movie villains.

Fletcher was married to "Thieves Like Us" producer Jerry Bick from 1960 to 1977. She is survived by her sons John and Andrew Bick, as well as her granddaughter, sister and brother-in-law, and 10 nieces and nephews.