Louise Fletcher has died at the age of 88. Confirmed by Deadline, the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest actress died in her sleep surrounded by her family on September 23. Fletcher’s cause of death is unknown at this time, but the actress leaves behind one of the greatest film careers in history.
The actress’ rich career spanned over 60 years. Throughout the decades, Fletcher has starred in a variety of iconic genre films that included Exorcist II: The Heretic, Firestarter, and Cruel Intentions. She also had a lustrous television career where the actress had roles in Lawman, Maverick, and The Untouchables. Fletcher’s later TV credits would include popular genre series like The Twilight Zone (1985) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine along with appearances on 7th Heaven, Shameless, and ER. On top of that, the actress was Emmy nominated for both her guest roles on Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia.
However, Fletcher’s most iconic role by far was her sinister turn as the evil Nurse Ratched in 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The classic film about an abusive power-hungry nurse, based on the 1962 novel of the same name, saw Fletcher act opposite stars like Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito, but she more than held her own. Even to this day, Fletcher’s performance is so memorably dark and twisted. What she brought to the role was ahead of its time. It helped pave the way for Cuckoo’s Nest to win five Oscars. This includes Best Picture and Fletcher winning Best Actress.
Ratched is one of the scariest cinematic villains of all time. Fletcher brought such an eerie subtle power to the role that cuts into your skin deeper every time you watch it. Her villain character came from a very real tragic place and Fletcher effortlessly tapped into an abuse of power that sadly still exists today. The ending alone is unforgettably disturbing; what Ratched puts Nicholson’s character through has been burnt into the minds of cinema fans for almost 50 years.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the best films ever made. That has a lot to do with Fletcher. She may have haunted a generation of moviegoers, but she inspired a generation of actresses by portraying a woman in a role of power in a time when that was hard to come by. The effort she put into that masterful villain, can be found across her entire filmography.
Fletcher had such an incredible career and her legacy will be forever felt thanks to roles like Nurse Ratched. While we are sure to learn more about her death in the coming days, our thoughts and prayers are with Fletcher and her family.