Louise Fletcher, the majestic, steel-eyed actress who won an Academy Award for her role as a tyrannical nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” died Friday at her home in Montdurausse, France. She was 88 years old.
Her agent, David Shaul, confirmed the death. The reason was not mentioned.
Mrs. Fletcher was 40 years old and was largely unknown to the public when she was cast as the chief administrative nurse in an Oregon mental institution in the 1975 film version of “The Cuckoo’s Nest”. The film, directed by Milos Forman and based on the novel by Ken Kesey, won Best Actress for Mrs. Fletcher. And four more Oscarsincluding for Best Picture, for Mr. Foreman for Best Director and Jack Nicholson for Best Actor.
Mrs. Fletcher’s acceptance speech popped up That night, not only because she sarcastically thanked voters for their hatred of her but also because she used American Sign Language to thank her parents for “teaching me to dream.”
The American Film Institute later named Nurse Ratched as one of the most famous villains in cinema history and the second most notorious villain, surpassed only by the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
But at the time of “Cuckoo’s Nest” release, Ms. Fletcher was frustrated by the cultivated nature of her character. “I envy the other actors so much,” She said in a 1975 interview with the New York Timesreferring to her fellow cast members, many Some of them were playing psychopaths. “They were very free, and I should have been very in control.”
Estelle Louise Fletcher was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Ala. She is one of four children to hear of Robert Capers Fletcher, an Episcopal priest, and former Estelle Caldwell, both of whom have been deaf since childhood. She studied drama at the University of North Carolina and moved to Los Angeles after graduation.
She later told reporters that she had trouble finding work because she was too tall – 5 feet 10 inches – and was often thrown in the West, where her height was an advantage. Of her first 20 on-screen roles in the late 1950s and early 1960s, about half were in television Westerns, including “Wagon Train,” “Maverick,” and “Pat Masterson.”
Mrs. Fletcher married film director Jerry Peck in 1959. They had two sons, whom she retired from acting for over a decade to raise.
“I was surprised when Louise appeared on screen,” he recalls watching Thieves Like Us. “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She had a certain mystery, which I thought was very, very important to Nurse Ratched.”
Reviewing “The Cuckoo’s Nest” in The New Yorker, Pauline Kael declared Ms. Fletcher a “witty performer”.
“We can see Virgo’s expectation – purity – transformed into bulging-eyed self-righteousness,” Ms. Kyle wrote. “She thinks she’s doing a good job for people, and she gets hurt – she feels offended – if her authority is questioned.”
Ms. Fletcher is often cited as an example of the Oscar curse – the notable phenomenon that winning an Academy Award for acting doesn’t always lead to continued movie stardom – but she maintained a busy career in film and television into her late 1970s.
She played the lead role as the cute psychiatrist of Linda Blair’s character in “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977) and was prominent in the comedy blockbuster “The Cheap Detective” (1978), inspired by the film character of Ingrid Bergman. She also starred with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood as a workaholic scientist in Brainstorm (1983). But she seems to have relegated to roles with limited screen time, especially when the character was so different from that of Nurse Ratched.
After her role as a large UFO plane in “Strange Invaders” (1983), she appeared in Firestarter (1984) as a frightened farm wife. police drama “Blue Steel” (1990) as Jamie Lee Curtis’ monotonous mother; “2 Days in the Valley” (1996) as a kind-hearted landlady in Los Angeles; and “Cruel Intentions” (1999) as Ryan Phillip’s sweet aunt.
Only when she played on the stereotype, as she did in Flowers in the Attic (1987), as an evil mother who sets out to poison her four unfit young grandchildren, did she find herself in the title roles once again. This movie was “the worst experience I’ve ever had making a movie”, I told the audience of Dragoncon In 2009. She told the director that she did not want her character to be heavy.
Later in her career, she played recurring characters in several television series, including “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” (she was a strange cult leader from 1993 to 1999) and “Shameless” (as William H.’s mother. As Liev Schreiber’s cute mother in the romantic drama A Perfect Man (2013).
Among the survivors are her two sons, John and Andrew Peck; her sister Roberta Ray; and granddaughter. Mrs. Fletcher and Mr. Beck divorced in 1977.
In addition to her home in Montdauraus, a town in southern France, Mrs. Fletcher had a home in Los Angeles.
Mrs. Fletcher, whose most famous character was an image of sternness, often remembers smiling constantly and pretending that everything was perfect when she was growing up, trying to protect her unheard parents from bad news.
“It was too expensive for me,” Mrs. Fletcher said in a 1977 interview with The Ladies’ Home Journal. “Because I didn’t just pretend everything was fine. I came to feel it should be.”
However, she admitted that pretending wasn’t bad, at least in terms of her profession. That same year she told journalist Rex Reed, “I feel like I know real pleasure from fantasizing.”
Mike Ives Contribute to the preparation of reports.