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Estelle Louise Fletcher (born July 22, 1934) is an American actress.

She initially debuted in the television series Yancy Derringer in 1958. Also in 1959 she played a young mother on the TV series Wagon Train in, “The Andrew Hale Story”, before being cast in Robert Altman‘s Thieves Like Us (1974). The following year, Fletcher gained international recognition for her performance as Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. She became only the third actress to win an Academy Award, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award for a single performance, after Audrey Hepburn and Liza Minnelli. Other notable film roles include Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), Brainstorm (1983), Firestarter (1984), Flowers in the Attic (1987), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), and Cruel Intentions (1999).

Later into her career, Fletcher returned to television, appearing as Winn Adami in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as well as receiving Emmy nominations for her guest-starring roles in Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia. In 2011-2012 she appeared in a recurring role on the Showtime television series Shameless, as Frank Gallagher’s foul-mouthed and hard-living mother who is serving a prison sentence for manslaughter. More recently, she portrayed the recurring role of Rosie on the Netflix series Girlboss (2017).


Early life

Fletcher was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the second of four children to Estelle Caldwell and the Reverend Robert Capers Fletcher, an Episcopal missionary from Arab, Alabama. Both of her parents were deaf and worked with the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Fletcher’s father founded more than 40 churches for the deaf in Alabama. Fletcher and her siblings, Roberta, John and Georgianna, were all born without any hearing loss; she was taught to speak by a hearing aunt, who also introduced her to acting. After attending the University of North Carolina, she traveled to Los Angeles, California, where she found work as a secretary by day and received acting lessons by night.


James Garner and Fletcher in Maverick (1959)

Fletcher at the National Film Society convention in May 1979.

Fletcher began appearing in several television series, including Lawman in 1958 and Maverick in 1959. (The Maverick episode, “The Saga of Waco Williams”, was the series’ highest-rated episode.) Also in 1959, she appeared in the second episode of the original Untouchables TV series (starring Robert Stack), “Ma Barker and Her Boys” as Elouise. In 1960 Fletcher made two guest appearances on Perry Mason, both times as the defendant: Gladys Doyle in “The Case of the Mythical Monkeys,” and Susan Connolly in “The Case of the Larcenous Lady.” In the summer of 1960, she was cast as Roberta McConnell in the episode “The Bounty Hunter” of the NBC western television series, Tate, starring David McLean.

In 1974, she returned to film in Thieves Like Us, co-produced by her husband and Robert Altman, who also directed. When the two had a falling out on Altman’s next project, (Nashville (1975)), Altman decided to cast Lily Tomlin for the role of Linnea Reese, initially created for and by Fletcher. Meanwhile, director Milo Forman saw Fletcher in Thieves and consequently cast her as McMurphy‘s nemesis Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Fletcher gained international recognition and fame for the role, winning Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as a BAFTA Award and Golden Globe. When Fletcher accepted her Oscar, she used sign language to thank her parents.

After Cuckoo’s Nest, Fletcher had mixed success in film. She made several financially and critically successful films, while others were box office failures. Fletcher’s film roles were in such features as Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), The Cheap Detective (1978), The Lady in Red (1979), The Magician of Lublin (1979), Brainstorm (1983), Firestarter (1984), Invaders From Mars (1986), Flowers in the Attic (1987), Two Moon Junction (1988), Best of the Best (1989), Blue Steel (1990), Virtuosity (1995), High School High (1996), and Cruel Intentions (1999, as Sebastian’s aunt). Additionally, she played the character Ruth Shorter, a supporting role, in the 2005 film Aurora Borealis alongside Joshua Jackson and Donald Sutherland, and appeared in the Fox Faith film The Last Sin Eater (2007).

Fletcher co-starred in such made-for-TV movies as The Karen Carpenter Story (1989) (as Karen and Richard Carpenter‘s mother, Agnes), Nightmare on the 13th Floor (1990), The Haunting of Seacliff Inn (1994), and The Stepford Husbands (1996). From 1993 to 1999, she held a recurring role in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the scheming Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami. She also earned Emmy Award nominations for her guest roles on the Tom Skerritt‘s CBS television series, Picket Fences (1996), and later on Joan of Arcadia (2004). In 2009, Fletcher appeared in the NBC series Heroes as the physician mother of character Emma Coolidge. In 2011, she appeared in the Showtime series Shameless as Grammy Gallagher, Frank Gallagher’s foul-mouthed and hard-living mother who is serving a prison sentence for manslaughter related to a meth lab explosion.

Personal life

Fletcher married literary agent and producer Jerry Bick in 1960, divorcing in 1977. The couple had two sons, John Dashiell Bick and Andrew Wilson Bick. Fletcher took an 11-year hiatus from acting to raise her sons. Fletcher received an honorary degree from Gallaudet University in 1982.



Year Title Role Notes
1963 A Gathering of Eagles Mrs. Kemler Uncredited
1974 Thieves Like Us Mattie
1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Nurse Ratched Academy Award for Best Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress Motion Picture Drama
NominatedNew York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
1975 Russian Roulette Midge
1977 Exorcist II: The Heretic Dr. Gene Tuskin
1978 The Cheap Detective Marlene DuChard
1979 Natural Enemies Miriam Steward
1979 The Magician of Lublin Emilia
1979 The Lady in Red Anna Sage
1980 Mama Dracula Mama Dracula
1980 The Lucky Star Loes Bakker
1981 Strange Behavior Barbara Moorehead
1983 Brainstorm Dr. Lillian Reynolds Saturn Award for Best Actress
1983 Strange Invaders Mrs. Benjamin
1983 Overnight Sensation Eve Peregrine ‘E. K. Hamilton’
1984 Firestarter Norma Manders
1984 Talk to Me Mrs. Patterson
1986 Nobody’s Fool Pearl
1986 The Boy Who Could Fly Psychiatrist
1986 Invaders from Mars Mrs. McKeltch NominatedGolden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress
1987 Flowers in the Attic Olivia Foxworth NominatedSaturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
1987 Grizzly II: The Predator Park Supervisor
1988 Two Moon Junction Belle Delongpre
1989 Best of the Best Mrs. Grady
1989 The Karen Carpenter Story Agnes Carpenter
1990 Blue Steel Shirley Turner
1990 Shadowzone Dr. Erhardt
1991 In A Child’s Name Jean Taylor
1994 Giorgino Innkeeper
1994 Tryst Maggie
1994 Tollbooth Lillian
1994 Someone Else’s Child Faye
1995 Return to Two Moon Junction Belle Delongpre
1995 Virtuosity Elizabeth Deane
1996 The Stepford Husbands Miriam Benton
1996 Edie & Pen Judge
1996 Mulholland Falls Esther Uncredited
1996 Frankenstein and Me Mrs. Perdue
1996 High School High Principal Evelyn Doyle
1996 2 Days in the Valley Evelyn
1997 Breast Men Mrs. Saunders Television movie
NominatedSatellite Award for Best Supporting Actress Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1997 The Girl Gets Moe Gloria
1997 Gone Fishin’ Restaurant Owner Uncredited
1998 Love Kills Alena Heiss
1999 A Map of the World Nellie Goodwin
1999 Cruel Intentions Helen Rosemond
1999 The Devil’s Arithmetic Aunt Eva
1999 The Contract Grandma Collins
2000 More Dogs Than Bones Iva Doll
2000 Very Mean Men Katherine Mulroney
2000 Big Eden Grace Cornwell
2000 Silver Man Val
2001 After Image Aunt Cora
2001 Touched by a Killer Judge Erica Robertson
2001 Dial 9 for Love Abbie
2002 Manna from Heaven Mother Superior
2003 Finding Home Esther
2004 Clipping Adam Grammy
2005 Aurora Borealis Ruth Shorter
2005 Dancing in Twilight Evelyn
2006 Fat Rose and Squeaky Bonnie
2006 Me and Luke Grandmother Glennie
2007 A Dennis the Menace Christmas Martha Wilson
2007 The Last Sin Eater Miz Elda
2011 Cassadaga Claire
2013 A Perfect Man Abbie


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Playhouse 90 Pete’s Girl Episode: “Seven Against the Wall”
1958 Bat Masterson Sarah Lou Conant Episode: “Cheyenne Club”
1958 Yancy Derringer twins Miss Nellie and Miss Alithia Episode: “Old Dixie”
1959 Maverick Kathy Bent Episode: “The Saga of Waco Williams”
Wagon Train Martha English Episode:”The Andrew Hale Story”
1960 Perry Mason Gladys Doyle Episode: “The Case of the Mythical Monkeys”
1961 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Aithra McLowery Episode: “The Law Must Be Fair”
1990 In the Heat of the Night Catherine Tyler Episode: “December Days”
1991 Tales from the Crypt Agent Episode: “Top Billing”
1993-1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Winn Adami 14 episodes
1995-1997 VR.5 Mrs. Nora Bloom 6 episodes
1996 Picket Fences Christine Bey 2 episodes
NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
1998 The Practice Judge N. Swanson Episode: “Rhyme and Reason”
2004 Joan of Arcadia Eva Garrison Episode: “Do the Math”
NominatedPrimetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
2004 Wonderfalls Vivian Caldwell Episode: “Barrel Bear”
2005 7th Heaven Mrs. Wagner Episode: “Honor Thy Mother”
2005 ER Roberta ‘Birdie’ Chadwick 3 episodes
2009 Heroes Doctor Coolidge 2 episodes
2010-2011 Private Practice Frances Wilder 2 episodes
2011-2012 Shameless Peggy Gallagher 4 episodes
2017 Girlboss