Louise Fletcher, the imposing, steely-eyed actress who received an Academy Award for her position because the tyrannical Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” died on Friday at her dwelling within the city of Montdurausse, in Southern France. She was 88.
The demise was confirmed by her agent, David Shaul, who didn’t cite a trigger. Ms. Fletcher additionally had a house in Los Angeles.
Ms. Fletcher was 40 and largely unknown to the general public when she was solid as the top administrative nurse at an Oregon psychological establishment in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The movie, directed by Milos Forman and primarily based on a preferred novel by Ken Kesey, received a best-actress trophy for Ms. Fletcher and 4 different Oscars: finest image, finest director, finest actor (Jack Nicholson, who starred because the rebellious psychological affected person McMurphy) and finest tailored screenplay (Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben).
Ms. Fletcher’s acceptance speech stood out that night time — not solely as a result of she teasingly thanked voters for hating her, but in addition as a result of she used American Signal Language in thanking her mother and father, who had been each deaf, for “educating me to have a dream.”
The American Movie Institute later named Nurse Ratched some of the memorable villains in movie historical past and the second most notable feminine villain, surpassed solely by the Depraved Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”
However on the time “Cuckoo’s Nest” was launched, Ms. Fletcher was pissed off by the buttoned-up nature of her character. “I envied the opposite actors tremendously,” she mentioned in a 1975 interview with The New York Occasions, referring to her fellow solid members, most of whom had been taking part in psychological sufferers. “They had been so free, and I needed to be so managed.”
Estelle Louise Fletcher was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Ala., one in all 4 listening to youngsters of Robert Capers Fletcher, an Episcopal minister, and Estelle (Caldwell) Fletcher; each her mother and father had been deaf since childhood. She studied drama on the College of North Carolina and moved to Los Angeles after commencement.
She later advised journalists that as a result of she was so tall — 5 toes 10 inches — she had bother discovering work in something however westerns, the place her peak was a bonus. Of her first 20 or so display roles within the late Fifties and early ’60s, about half had been in tv westerns, together with “Wagon Prepare,” “Maverick” and “Bat Masterson.”
Ms. Fletcher married Jerry Bick, a movie producer, in 1959. They’d two sons, John and Andrew, and she or he retired from appearing for greater than a decade to boost them.
Ms. Fletcher and Mr. Bick divorced in 1977. Her survivors embody her sons; her sister, Roberta Ray; and a granddaughter.
She returned to films in 1974 in Robert Altman’s “Thieves Like Us,” as a girl who coldly turns in her brother to the police. It was her look in that movie that led Mr. Forman to supply her the position in “Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“I used to be caught unexpectedly when Louise got here onscreen,” Mr. Forman recalled of watching “Thieves Like Us.” “I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She had a sure thriller, which I assumed was very, essential for Nurse Ratched.”
Reviewing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in The New Yorker, Pauline Kael declared Ms. Fletcher’s “a masterly efficiency.”
“We will see the virginal expectancy — the purity — that has changed into puffy-eyed self-righteousness,” Ms. Kael wrote. “She thinks she’s doing good for individuals, and she or he’s harm — she feels abused — if her authority is questioned.”
Ms. Fletcher is commonly cited for instance of the Oscar curse — the phenomenon that successful an Academy Award for appearing doesn’t at all times result in sustained film stardom — however she did keep a busy profession in movies and on tv into her late 70s.
She had a lead position because the Linda Blair character’s soft-spoken psychiatrist in “Exorcist II: The Heretic” (1977) and was notable within the ensemble comedy “The Low-cost Detective” (1978), riffing on Ingrid Bergman’s movie persona. She additionally starred with Christopher Walken and Natalie Wooden as a workaholic scientist in “Brainstorm” (1983). However she was largely relegated to roles with restricted display time, particularly when her character was very totally different from her Nurse Ratched persona.
After a flip as an inscrutable U.F.O. bigwig in “Unusual Invaders” (1983), she appeared in “Firestarter” (1984) as a fearful farm spouse; the police drama “Blue Metal” (1990) as Jamie Lee Curtis’s drab mom; “2 Days within the Valley” (1996) as a compassionate Los Angeles landlady; and “Merciless Intentions” (1999) as Ryan Phillippe’s genteel aunt.
Solely when she performed to villainous stereotype — as she did in “Flowers within the Attic” (1987), as an evil matriarch who units out to poison her 4 inconvenient younger grandchildren — did she discover herself in starring roles once more. And that movie, she advised a Dragoncon viewers in 2009, was “the worst expertise I’ve ever had making a film.”
Later in her profession, she performed recurring characters on a number of tv sequence, together with “Star Trek: Deep House 9” (she was an alien cult chief from 1993 to 1999) and “Shameless” (as William H. Macy’s foulmouthed convict mom). She additionally made an look as Liev Schreiber’s affable mom within the romantic drama “A Good Man” (2013). She appeared most not too long ago in two episodes of the Netflix comedy sequence “Girlboss.”
Though Ms. Fletcher’s most well-known character was a portrait of sternness, she usually recalled smiling consistently and pretending that every part was good when she was rising up, in an effort to guard her non-hearing mother and father from dangerous information.
“The worth of it was very excessive for me,” she mentioned in a 1977 interview with The Women’ House Journal. “As a result of I not solely pretended every part was all proper. I got here to really feel it needed to be.”
Pretending wasn’t all dangerous, nonetheless, she acknowledged, a minimum of by way of her career. That very same yr she advised the journalist Rex Reed, “I really feel like I do know actual pleasure from make-believe.”
Mike Ives contributed reporting.