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.