Louise Fletcher, the Oscar-winning actress best known for her role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, has died at age 88. Her family announced her death to Deadline, saying she died in her sleep at her home in Montdurausse, France.
Born on July 22nd, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, Fletcher got her start by appearing in 1950s television Westerns like Lawman and Maverick. In 1959, she married film producer Jerry Bick, who she remained with until 1977. The couple had two children, and she took 11 years off from acting to raise them. In 1974, she appeared in Robert Altman’s crime drama Thieves Like Us, where she caught the attention of director Miloš Forman.
Forman then cast her in his upcoming film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, ending a long search for an actress who could go toe-to-toe with his star, Jack Nicholson. As Nurse Ratched, Fletcher portrayed the cold, tyrannical head nurse at a mental institution where Nicholson’s Randle McMurphy feigns insanity to avoid being sent to prison. Fletcher won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe for her performance, becoming only the third woman to take home all three accolades for a single performance. In her Oscars acceptance speech, she used sign language, a nod to her parents, who were deaf.
In the years following Cuckoo’s Nest, Fletcher starred in a number of films, including Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Cheap Detective, The Lady in Red, and Blue Steel, though none of them were as successful as her 1975 breakout. She found more memorable roles in television, where she had a recurring role from 1993 to 1999 as Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and received Emmy nominations for her guest appearances on Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia. In 2011 and 2012, she had a recurring role on Shameless, where she played Frank Gallagher’s (William H. Macy) hard-living mother. Her final role was a two-episode appearance on Netflix’s 2017 series Girlboss.