Hollywood has sadly lost another one of its greats. Louise Fletcher died at her home in Montdurausse, France at the age of 88 on Saturday (September 24). The actress was a rarity in Tinseltown, finding fame much later in life after putting her career on pause to raise a family. When she did return to the screen for 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — in her early 40s and little known — it was with a bang, however: Louise walked away with the Best Actress Oscar for her incredible turn as the despicable Nurse Ratched, who made the life of Jack Nicholson’s Randle McMurphy a living hell in a mental institution.
Keep reading to find out all about the late actress, below!
1. Where did Louise get her start?
Born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama, Louise would go on to study drama at North Carolina State University. She then moved to Los Angeles to start her acting career, working as a receptionist by day and studying her craft at night until she got small roles in television, according to NPR.
2. Her parents were deaf.
Louise’s mother was born deaf and her preacher father lost his hearing when he was struck by lightening at the age of 4, per the outlet. “It was like having parents who are immigrants who don’t speak your language,” Louise said in 1982.
3. Who originally turned down Louise’s Nurse Ratched role?
Set and filmed in the Oregon State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, in Oregon in 1974, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was directed by Milos Forman and based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel of the same name. It would go on to become the first film since 1934′s It Happened One Night to win best picture, best director, best actor, best actress and best screenplay. The last movie to do so was Silence of the Lambs in 1991.
Milos had seen Louise’s work the year before in director Robert Altman’s Thieves Like Us and thought she’d be good for the role of Nurse Ratched. Lucky for Louise, as the role had already been offered to some big name stars of that day, including Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn and Angela Lansbury, per the outlet.
“I was the last person cast,” she recalled in a 2004 interview, per NPR. “It wasn’t until we were halfway through shooting that I realized the part had been offered to other actresses who didn’t want to appear so horrible on the screen.”
4. Who did Louise thank during her Oscar speech?
After she took the stage to accept the Oscar, Louise addressed her deaf parents using sign language: “I want to thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true,” she told them.
5. Louise Didn’t Act For 11 Years While Raising Her Family
After marrying Jerry Bick in the early 1960s and welcoming two sons, John and Andrew, with the producer, Louise decided to step away from her acting career to raise the children. The temporary stay lasted 11 years. “I made the choice to stop working, but I didn’t see it as a choice,” she explained in the 2004 interview, per NPR. “I felt compelled to stay at home.”