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Oscar-winning 'Cuckoo's Nest' actor Louise Fletcher dies at 88

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Louise Fletcher holds the Academy Award she won for her leading role in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" in Los Angeles, March 30, 1976.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Louise Fletcher, a late-blooming star whose riveting performance as the cruel and calculating Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" set a new standard for screen villains and won her an Academy Award, has died at age 88.

Fletcher died in her sleep surrounded by family at her home in Montdurausse, France, her agent David Shaul told The Associated Press on Friday. No cause was given.

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After putting her career on hold for years to raise her children, Fletcher was in her early 40s and little known when chosen for the role opposite Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film by director Milos Forman, who had admired her work the year before in director Robert Altman's "Thieves Like Us." At the time, she didn't know that many other prominent stars, including Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn and Angela Lansbury, had turned it down.

FILE - Louise Fletcher, a cast member in "Shameless," poses at the premiere of the second season of the Showtime television series in Los Angeles, Jan. 5, 2012. 

"I was the last person cast," she recalled in a 2004 interview. "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."

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"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" went 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.

Clutching her Oscar at the 1976 ceremony, Fletcher told the audience, "It looks as though you all hated me."

She then addressed her deaf parents in Birmingham, Alabama, talking and using sign language: "I want to thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You are seeing my dream come true."

A moment of silence was followed by thunderous applause.

Read the full obituary here:

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The late AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas contributed biographical material to this report.


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