Oscar-winning actress Louise Fletcher has died in Montdaurasse, France at the age of 88. She was best known for her Oscar winning performance as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Science Fiction fandom knew her as “one of the best antagonists in the entire Star Trek franchise as the manipulative and conniving Kai Winn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” to quote William Hughes.
As Kai Winn, Ms. Fletcher played the Bajoran religious leader who had a most unholy grasp of realpolitik. She often bumped heads with Commander Benjamin Sisko and Major Kira Nerys.
The Borgia of Bajor
In 2018 CBR (Comic Book Resources) judged Kai Winn the 11th best recurring character in the entire Star Trek franchise. Slate Magazine named Kai Winn one of Star Trek‘s ten best villains in 2013. The Online Film and Television Association voted her Best Guest Actress in a Syndicated Series for her role as Kai Winn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine three times, in 1997, 1998, and 1999.
Fletcher was only the third woman to win the Academy Award, the BAFTA Award and the Golden Globe Award for a single performance: Nurse Mildred Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She earned Emmy nominations for guest appearances on Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia. She won the Saturn Award for Best Actress in Brainstorm (1983). In 1981 she won the Canadian Genie Award for Best Performance by a Foreign Actress for The Lucky Star. The Online Film and Television Association voted her Best Guest Actress in a Syndicated Series for her role as Kai Winn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine three times, in 1997, 1998, and 1999. In 2005 the Palm Beach International Film Festival awarded her its Legend in Film Award. In 2016 Louise Fletcher won the Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment Industry.”
Estelle Louise Fletcher was born July 22, 1934 in Birmingham, Alabama. Both her parents were Deaf, so Ms. Fletcher was fluent in sign language. She married literary agent and producer Jerry Bick in 1960, and they remained married for seventeen years, divorcing in 1977. They had two sons: John Dashiell Bick and Andrew Wilson Bick. Ms. Fletcher took an eleven year sabbatical from acting to concentrate on her family.
Other SF/F/H Roles
Deep Space 9 was far from Louise Fletcher’s only science fiction, fantasy, or horror role.
She starred in Mama Dracula (1980). She appeared in The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) She starred in Strange Invaders (1983). The same year she appeared in Brainstorm (1983). In 1986 she appeared in Invaders from Mars; she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry “Award” for Worst Supporting Actress for that one.
Louise Fletcher appeared in The Boy Who Could Fly (1986). She starred as the grandmother of the poor captive children in Flowers in the Attic (1986), for which she was nominated for a Saturn Award as Best Supporting Actress. She starred in Shadowzone (1990). She starred in the horror thriller Massadaga (2011). Her final film, Grizzly II: Revenge, was filmed in 1983 but not released until 2020.
TV appearances of interest to SciFi.Radio fans include One Step Beyond, Worlds Beyond, Twilight Zone, Nightmare on the 13th Floor, The Hitchhiker, Tales From the Crypt, Ray BradburyTheater, and VR.5. In the 1950s and ’60s, she appeared in a slue of westerns. Fletcher said “I was 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m; 178 cm) tall, and no television producer thought a tall woman could be sexually attractive to anybody. I was able to get jobs on westerns because the actors were even taller than I was.”
Just shy of nine decades, Louise Fletcher had a long, full life. She travelled. She was an award winning actress who put her family ahead of her career. Yet, she appeared in horror, drama, comedy, and science fiction, won awards for best actress and best supporting actress (sometimes for the same role), and scared the daylights out of thousands of horror fans. She has won the respect of her peers as well as the deep admiration of fans worldwide.
We offer our sincere condolences to her family and friends. She’ll be missed, but she won’t be forgotten.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.