Louise Fletcher

Active - 1963 - 2013  |   Born - Jul 22, 1934 in Birmingham, Alabama, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Louise Fletcher's acting career can be divided into two stages. She started out appearing on television shows such as Wagon Train and The Untouchables during the late '50s, but left acting in 1964, two years after marrying movie producer Jerry Bick, to raise a family. She did not return to her craft until appearing in Robert Altman's well-regarded feature film Thieves Like Us in 1974. Fletcher then appeared in the spy thriller Russian Roulette (1975) before Milos Forman cast her in what was to become her signature role, that of the iron-willed, sadistic Nurse Ratched who tormented Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). Her believable portrayal won her a Best Actress Oscar and a Golden Globe. Perhaps the highest honor is that her Ratched has become a movie icon, one that has been frequently emulated and parodied in numerous subsequent films.

Fletcher was born in Birmingham, AL, to a deaf Episcopalian minister and a deaf mother. She started acting in summer stock following her graduation from the University of North Carolina. Fletcher next moved to Los Angeles and found work as a receptionist before breaking into television. Standing 5'10", the strikingly beautiful Fletcher was often taller than her leading men, something that hindered her first bid at stardom.

Since her success with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fletcher has found steady employment as a supporting and character actress on television -- where she received a 1996 Emmy nomination for a guest-star appearance on the highly acclaimed CBS series Picket Fences -- and in feature films. She also has a busy stage career.

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  • Both parents were deaf; her father, an Episcopal priest, founded more than 40 churches for people with hearing difficulties.
  • Learned to speak from her aunt, who also introduced her to acting.
  • Made her feature-film debut in 1974's Thieves Like Us.
  • Thanked her parents in sign language during her Oscar acceptance speech in 1976.
  • Claims that she has a harder time watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) as she gets older because Nurse Ratched, the role that earned her the Academy Award, is too cruel.