Louise Fletcher, who won an Oscar for her unforgettable role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, has died aged 88.
The US actress died at her home in the south of France, her agent said.
While she was best known for her portrayal of Nurse Ratched, Fletcher’s career spanned six decades, including TV and film.
Former colleagues and fans paid tribute to the actress, calling her an “absolute great”.
Fletcher was a relative unknown when picked to play Nurse Ratched in 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She began her acting career in the 50s but paused for more than a decade to raise her children.
Leading actresses including Angela Lansbury and Ellen Burstyn had all turned down the part.
Set and filmed in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon in the US, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was directed by Milos Forman and based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel of the same name.
The film proved hugely popular, winning a raft of awards and making it into many lists of the greatest American films of all time.
Central to the film’s appeal was Fletcher’s cruel and calculating Nurse Ratched, a fearsome symbol of institutional authority who is pitted against the individualism of Jack Nicholson’s Randle McMurphy.
The American Film Institute put Nurse Ratched behind only The Wicked Witch of the West, Darth Vadar, Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter in its ranking of film’s greatest villains.
Fletcher won an Oscar in 1976 for her role, part of a rare clean sweep that saw the film also bag Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
A child of deaf parents, she thanked them using sign language in her acceptance speech.
While her career never again hit the same heights, Fletcher had a recurring role in the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and gained Emmy nominations for guest-starring in Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia, in 1996 and 2004 respectively.
She married producer Jerry Bick in the 1960s, before getting divorced in 1977. She is survived by two sons, John and Andrew.
Friends and fans shared tributes on social media.
Marlee Matlin, a deaf American actress who worked with Fletcher on Picket Fences, wrote on Twitter that she was a “brilliant actress”, and highlighted that she was first to use sign language in an Oscar acceptance speech.
Robert Hewitt Wolfe, a writer for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, said: “‘It was an honour and a pleasure to write for Louise Fletcher, one of the absolute great A blazing talent and a compete class act.”