Fletcher’s performance as the cruel and calculating nurse in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set a new standard for screen villains and won her an Oscar.

LOS ANGELES — Louise Fletcher, a late-blooming star whose brilliant performance as a cruel and calculating nurse in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set a new standard for screen villains and won her an Academy Award, Died at the age of 88.

Fletcher died in his sleep surrounded by family at his home in Mont-Dorasse, France, his agent David Shaul told The Associated Press on Friday. No reason was given.

After putting her career on hold for years to raise her children, Fletcher was in her early 40s and was cast opposite Jack Nicholson in director Milos Forman’s 1975 film. Little was known, who praised her work in director Robert a year ago. Altman’s “Thieves Like Us.” At the time, she didn’t know that many other prominent stars, including Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burston and Angela Lansbury, had turned her down.

“I was the last person to be cast,” she recalled in a 2004 interview. presented who didn’t want to look so scary on screen.”

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” became the first film since 1934’s “It Happened One Night” to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

“It’s like you all hate me,” Fletcher told the audience while clutching his Oscar at the 1976 ceremony.

She then spoke to her deaf parents in Birmingham, Alabama, using sign language, saying: “I want to thank you for teaching me to dream. You’re watching my dream come true. “

After a moment of silence there was thunderous applause.

Later that night, Foreman made this comment about Fletcher and his co-star Jack Nicholson: “Now we’re all going to be colossal flops.”

In the short term, at least, he was right.

Forman next directed “Hair,” a movie version of the hit Broadway musical that failed to capture the appeal of the stage version. Nicholson directed and starred in “Goin’ South,” generally considered one of his worst films. Fletcher signed on for “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” a misrepresentation of historical origin. Gaya is a sequel.

Much more than her male peers, Fletcher was held back by her age in seeking bigger roles in Hollywood. Still, he worked steadily for most of the rest of his life. His post-Cuckoo’s Nest credits include “Mama Dracula,” “Dead Kids” and “The Boy Who Could Fly.”

She was nominated for Emmys for guest roles on the TV series “Joan of Arcadia” and “Picket Fences” and had a recurring role as Bajoran religious leader Kai Win Adami on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” . of the musical duo the Carpenters in the 1989 musical “The Karen Carpenter Story”.

Fletcher’s career was also affected by his height. At 5-foot-10, she was often immediately dismissed from auditions because he was taller than her leading man.

Fletcher moved to Los Angeles to begin her acting career shortly after graduating from North Carolina State University.

Working as a doctor’s receptionist by day and studying with renowned actor and teacher Jeff Corey by night, she appeared in TV series such as “Wagon Train,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Untouchables.” Start getting day jobs.

Fletcher married producer Jerry Bick in the early 1960s and gave birth to two sons in quick succession. She decided to put her career on hold to become a stay-at-home mom and didn’t work for 11 years.

“I chose to stop working, but I didn’t see it as a choice,” he said in a 2004 interview. “I felt compelled to stay at home.”

She divorced Bick in 1977 and he died in 2004.

In “Cuckoo’s Nest,” the novel Ken Casey wrote while participating in an experimental LSD program, Nicholson’s character, RP McMurphy, is a reluctant, small-time criminal who is too crazy to be transferred from prison to a mental institution. Makes a pun. You will not have to work so hard.

Once institutionalized, McMurphy discovers that his mental ward is run by Fletcher’s cold, imposing nurse Mildred Ratched, who keeps her patients firmly under her thumb. After the two clash, McMurphy bravely takes over the ward, leading to a harsh punishment for Ratched and the institution, where she restores order.

The role was so memorable that it would become the basis of the Netflix series “Ratched” 45 years later.

Estelle Louise Fletcher, the second of four children, was born on 22 July 1934 in Birmingham. His mother was born deaf and his father was an itinerant Episcopal minister who lost his hearing when struck by lightning at the age of 4.

“It was like having parents who are immigrants who don’t speak your language,” she said in 1982.

The Fletcher children were supported by their aunt, with whom they lived for a year in Bryant, Texas. He taught them to read, write and speak, as well as sing and dance.

It was these later studies that convinced Fletcher that she wanted to act. She was further inspired, she once said, when she saw the movie “Lady in the Dark” with Ginger Rogers.

Fletcher said that this and other films taught him that “your dream can become a reality if you want it bad enough.”

“I knew from the movies,” she would say, “that I had to live in Birmingham and not be like everyone else.”

Fletcher’s death was first reported by Deadline.

She is survived by her two sons, John and Andrew Buck;

Late AP Entertainment writer Bob Thomas contributed biographical material to this report.

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