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Louise Fletcher Dies: Oscar-Winning ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ Actor Was 88

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Louise Fletcher, whose Oscar-winning performance as the sadistic Nurse Ratched in 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest gave Hollywood one of its greatest all-time villains and provided the culture with a portrait of bureaucratic evil so indelible that the character’s last name could carry a TV series 45 years later, died Friday at her home in Montdurausse, France. She was 88.

Her death was announced to Deadline by her family through agent David Shaul. Although no cause was specified, Shaul said she passed away in her sleep at the home she had built from a 300-year-old farmhouse, surrounded by family. Earlier today, she said to her family about her beloved home, “I can’t believe I created something so meaningful to my well-being.”

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Although forever linked with her most famous character, Fletcher enjoyed an acting career that spanned more than 60 years and included numerous performances in both television and on film. She had a recurring role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami, and guest-starring roles on Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia brought Emmy nominations in 1996 and 2004, respectively.

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Born July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, AL, to deaf parents — she used sign language in her Academy Award acceptance speech, one of Oscar’s most memorable moments (watch it below) — Fletcher began her acting career in the late 1950s on such episodic TV series as Lawman, Bat Masterson, Maverick, The Untouchables and 77 Sunset Strip.

Fletcher, ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ (1998)
Everett Collection

Similar roles followed at a steady clip throughout the 1960s, with appearances on Sugarfoot, Perry Mason and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. She appeared on film in 1963’s A Gathering of Eagles and, more fortuitously, in 1974’s Thieves Like Us, directed by Robert Altman. It was her performance in the latter film that drew the interest of director Miloš Forman, who was in the process of casting his film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the 1962 Ken Kesey novel set in a mental institution and focusing on the conflict between a man feigning insanity to avoid prison and the domineering head nurse who demands conformity and obedience at all costs.

With Jack Nicholson set to star as the headstrong anti-hero patient Randle McMurphy, Forman spent the better part of a year looking for a potential co-star who could hold her own against the actor, then riding high from the success of Chinatown. The director reportedly made offers to, among others, Colleen Dewhurst, Ellen Burstyn, Anne Bancroft and Geraldine Page before deciding he had found his tyrannical Mildred Ratched in Fletcher.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was an immediate critical and box office hit, and would sweep the year’s Oscars by winning the awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Leading Actress and, for the work of Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, Best Screenplay.

In winning her Oscar, Fletcher became only the third woman to win the Academy Award, the BAFTA Award and the Golden Globe Award for a single performance. So indelible was her portrayal that in 2020, the Ryan Murphy-Evan Romansky Netflix series Ratched — a prequel of sorts to the novel and film, with Sarah Paulson in the starring role — would need only the single-word title to evoke the sense of dread and cruelty conveyed by Fletcher decades earlier.

Fletcher with Marlee Matlin, Lenny von Dohlen, ‘Picket Fences’ (2004)
Everett Collection

The impact of the Oscar win was, she later recalled, exhilarating but fleeting. In a 1995 interview with The New York Times, she advised that year’s winners to “Just enjoy it; it’ll make you wonderfully happy for a night. But don’t expect that it’ll do anything for your career.”

“I got the Oscar when I was 41,” said Fletcher, then 60. “If I was 23, it would have been hard to deal with. Hell, at my age it was hard to deal with. It was like being thrown an explosive.”

In the same interview, she recalled a prophetic comment made backstage on Oscar night by the Czech-born Forman. “Milos said, ‘Now we’re all going to make flops.’ It was true. I made The Heretic — the second Exorcist — and it was a huge flop. Milos did Ragtime. And Jack did [The] Missouri Breaks. That’s Czech prophecy.”

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Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) ushered in a string of high-profile but less-than-successful films for Fletcher: The Cheap Detective (1978), The Lady in Red (1979), Brainstorm (1983), Blue Steel (1990) and Cruel Intentions (1999), among others. In a more memorable role, she played the Ratched-esque mother of Karen and Richard Carpenter in the 1989 TV-movie The Karen Carpenter Story.

A career revival began just a few years later when, in 1993, she landed the recurring role of the devious Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In 1996 she guested on Picket Fences as yet another cold-as-ice character, playing the estranged mother of the town mayor (portrayed by deaf actor Marlee Matlin). As a woman who rejected her deaf daughter, Fletcher earned an Emmy nomination.

Fletcher was nominated for another Emmy for her 2004 guest appearance as an elderly music teacher on Joan of Arcadia.

Subsequent TV roles included appearances on 7th Heaven, Private Practice and, from 2011-12, Shameless, in which she memorably recurred as the meth-cooking jailbird mother of William H. Macy’s Frank Gallagher. Her final TV credit was in the 2017 Netflix comedy Girlboss.

Fletcher was married to film producer Jerry Bick from 1959 until their divorce in 1977. She is survived by sons John and Andrew Bick; granddaughter Emilee Kaya Bick; sister Roberta Ray and brother-in-law Edward Ray; and 10 nieces and nephews.

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SAG-AFTRA To Pursue Pay For Auditions Under Specific Circumstances

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Film and TV actors might be contractually entitled to collect half-a-day’s pay when they audition but aren’t hired, though very few ever collect. The payments have been codified in every Screen Actors Guild and SAG-AFTRA contract since 1937, but the payments are not automatic – actors have to file a claim to receive them, and few ever do.

On Wednesday, however, after Deadline made inquiries, the union said that it now will pursue claims for audition pay under specific circumstances.

“Until further notice,” the guild said in a posting on its website, “members should expect the union to pursue audition pay claims in the following circumstances, provided that the performer is not offered employment in the picture and that the requirements of the audition pay language within the schedule applicable to the role being cast are otherwise met:
1. When the producer or casting director expressly require the performer to memorize their lines in advance.
2. When the performer participates in a network or studio ‘test’ as that term is commonly understood in the entertainment industry. For context, ‘tests’ are typically used to cast series regular or feature lead roles, typically involve multiple performers who are expected to be ‘off book,’ may involve make-up, hairdress and wardrobe, and will have network or studio executives in attendance.
3. When a performer is owed pay for waiting time in excess of one hour as provided in the applicable schedule.”

SAG-AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles
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Actor Shaan Sharma, who is a member of the SAG-AFTRA Hollywood board, has been one of the leaders of the effort to get the union to pursue pay for auditions and has filed his own claims for audition pay. “This is a first step,” he told Deadline, “but does not address the work we do on auditions that don’t expressly require lines to be memorized, which includes most auditions. This is something we’ve been owed since 1937.”

In its statement, SAG-AFTRA said:

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“It has come to the attention of SAG-AFTRA that there is a lack of clarity regarding the requirement of payment for auditions where the performer is not subsequently offered employment on the picture. The confusion stems, in part, from the fact that the audition provisions of the Codified Basic Agreement, which apply to the casting of film and dramatic television programs, date back to 1937 and employ vocabulary that no longer tracks common usage in the entertainment industry.

“In addition, the way that roles are cast in the entertainment industry has changed radically since that language was last negotiated, thereby creating genuine ambiguities in how the audition pay language should be applied today.

“The current Codified Basic Agreement expires on June 30, 2023, and feedback from members has made it abundantly clear that changes in how roles are cast have created a number of issues that require resolution at the bargaining table.” In the interim, the union said, it “will pursue audition pay claims” in the above-listed circumstances.

“To be clear,” the union said, “SAG-AFTRA believes that the audition pay language can be read to require payment in circumstances beyond those identified (above) and SAG-AFTRA specifically reserves the right to pursue those interpretations in the future. There is the potential, however, for such broader interpretations to have negative consequences, including a reduction of access to casting opportunities that will impact some member groups more acutely than others.”

The union says that it also will “consider any unique or compelling circumstances in determining whether to file a claim, including claims that do not meet the foregoing criteria, so members who strongly believe that they are contractually owed audition pay should call their local office to review the circumstances of their audition or interview. Active claims previously filed with SAG-AFTRA will be reviewed and processed in line with the above criteria and guidance. Members who are interested in how the Codified Basic Agreement regulates the casting process are strongly encouraged to participate in the TV/Theatrical Wages and Working Conditions process that will commence in the coming months.”

With regard to auditions and tests, the current SAG-AFTRA contract says:

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“A. If the performer is given employment in the picture, he shall not be entitled to compensation for auditions or tests unless required to wait more than one (1) hour between the time of the call for such purpose and the commencement thereof; if required to wait more than one (1) hour, the performer shall receive compensation for excess waiting time, at straight time, in one-half (½) hour units.
“B. If the performer is not given employment in the picture, the performer shall receive one-half (½) day of pay.”
“C. If the performer reads or speaks lines which he has not been given to learn outside the studio, without photography or sound recording, the same shall not constitute an audition or test, but shall constitute an ‘interview,’ and the provisions of Section 14 hereof shall apply thereto.”

Similar language is contained in the Screen Actors Guild’s 1947 contract, which said:

“(a). If the player is given employment in the picture, the player shall not be entitled to compensation unless required to wait more than 1 hour between the time of call for such purpose and commencement of such audition or in which case the player shall receive compensation for excess waiting time at straight time, in one-half hour units.
“(b). If the player is not given employment in the picture, the player shall receive one-half day’s pay. If the player reads or speaks lines which he has not been given to learn outside the studio, without photography or sound recording, the same shall not constitute an audition or test but shall constitute an ‘interview,’ and the provisions of paragraph 7 above shall apply thereto.”





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Chaz Ebert Receives FACETS Legend Award As Producer-Philanthropist-Entrepreneur Works On Directorial Debut

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Chaz Ebert has become one of the foremost agents of change in the entertainment industry, working to make sure traditionally overlooked communities get the chance to develop their talents in the business.

Tonight, the entrepreneur, film producer, publisher of RogerEbert.com and president of the Ebert Company LTD. is being honored for her efforts to drive inclusion with the FACETS Legend Award at the Screen Gems Benefit 2022 in her native Chicago.

“Chaz is so deserving of this honor as she is passionate about programs that help break the glass ceiling for women and people of color and that provide education and arts opportunities for women, children, and families,” noted FACETS executive director Karen Cardarelli. “We are inspired by her extraordinary contributions to the industry.”

Movie Critic Roger Ebert and wife Chaz Ebert attend the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2009
Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage

Ebert began her career as an attorney, working as a litigator for the Environmental Protection Agency, and later in private practice. In 1989 she became vice president of the Ebert Company LTD, and in 1992 she and Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert were married. Her early efforts at promoting diversity within the film world came in sponsoring Ebert Fellows to participate in important festivals like Sundance and Cannes.

“When I first started out doing this, it wasn’t consciously just to open up things,” Ebert tells Deadline. “I would talk to people who I found interesting, people who didn’t know how to break into the industry. They didn’t know anyone. They didn’t have any clout. But I thought that they were talented and I thought, Boy, I’d like to see their work.”

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She was married to Roger Ebert for more than 20 years before his untimely passing in 2013. Since his death, she has continued her philanthropic field-building work through a variety of programs.

“As president of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation… she has provided grants to support films with strong social justice themes,” a press release from FACETS said. “And she supports emerging writers, filmmakers, and technologists with her endowment of scholarships, internships, or awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Film Independent Spirit Awards, the University of Illinois Ebert Fellowships, the Hawaii International Film Festival-Young Critics Program, the Telluride Ebert/TFF University Seminars, the Chicago International Film Festival Ebert Director Awards, and the Columbia College Links Journalism Awards in conjunction with the Chicago Urban League.”

Those initiatives have begun to bear fruit, widening a field that at one point was mostly the preserve of white men.

“I do know that I’m pleased every time I see some area opening up,” Ebert says, “whether it’s in front of the camera or behind the camera.”

In recent years, Ebert has become more involved in film projects, executive producing Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, the 2021 drama Passing that starred Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson.

Chaz Ebert attends the Celebration for Black Cinema & Television in Los Angeles
Chaz Ebert onstage during the 4th Annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television in Los Angeles, December 6, 2021
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for the Critics Choice Association

“If you had to classify me as a personality type, I’m more of a producer,” Ebert explains. “I came from a family of nine children — I was the eighth of nine. And when you have a big group of people trying to do anything you need somebody who is very organized and very laser focused on what things need to be done and how to draw the people together to do them and how to draw money together to do it. That was my role kind of in life. And so it became natural for me to become more of a film producer.”

Recently, she has turned her attention to directing. She’s at work on her first documentary, which will tell the story of Deborah Szekely, known as the “godmother of health and fitness,” who celebrated her 100th birthday on May 3.

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“She started Rancho La Puerta Wellness Resort and Spa when she was 17, and she started the Golden Door Spa outside of San Diego. And she’s still going strong,” Ebert says. “I spent her 100th birthday with her, and the whole town of Tecate, Mexico, came out and gave her a party. They had parties for her in San Diego. They had parties for her in Washington, D.C. She told me is still walks the mile a day. Sometimes she has to use a walker to do it, but she still does it.”

The film will explore the incredible dimensions to Szekely’s career, which extend beyond health and fitness.

“She started a center for new citizens who come into the United States. She wrote a book that Congress uses today to tell you what to do when you first get elected to Congress,” Ebert notes. “Setting Course: A Congressional Management Guide was her idea. She put it together and it’s now in its 17th edition. She’s lived an extraordinary life, and to spend the day with someone who at 100 was still inspiring me was something that I wanted to document.”

Ebert says she hasn’t decided if the film will be feature length or a short, but hopes to release it next year.

Tonight’s Screen Gems Benefit, meanwhile, were Ebert is being honored, will support causes close to her.

“All proceeds will be directed to the Bross Scholarship Fund supporting under-resourced youth,” according to a release. “Scholarships provide free access to the Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and to Summer Film Camp.”

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Disney Dragon Character Figment Getting Feature Treatment From Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit & Point Grey

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EXCLUSIVE: A Disney film is in the works featuring the character Figment, a small purple dragon who serves as the mascot of Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion in Orlando. The feature hails from Seth Rogen’s Point Grey with Pokémon Detective Pikachu‘s Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit set to write, Deadline has learned.

Figment was created by Walt Disney Imagineers Tony Baxter and Steve Kirk, among other collaborators, in 1983, the same year it made its debut in the Epcot ride Journey Into Imagination. Figment is the embodiment of the imagining process— a figment of your imagination.

Although one of Disney’s more obscure characters, Figment has a devoted fanbase that has ensured his role at the park is never diminished. Various attempts to remove the ride or decrease his presence have been met with loud protests.

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Today, he is the star of the latest version of the ride Journey Into Imagination with Figment.

The feature will not be Figment’s first time on the big screen, however. He made cameo appearances in 2015’s Inside Out and 2019’s Toy Story 4.

Rogen and his producing partners Evan Goldberg and James Weaver have released various TV and film projects under their Point Grey banner including Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, Amazon’s The Boys and The Boys Presents: Diabolical, as well as This Is the End, The Interview, The Disaster Artist and An American Pickle.

Up next, they have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

The writing team of Hernandez and Samit penned 2019’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu and 2021’s The Addams Family 2 and created the upcoming Hulu animated series Koala Man, premiering in 2023.

Other notable credits include Apple’s Central Park, The Tick for Amazon and the One Day at a Time reboot.

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They are repped by 3 Arts Entertainment and UTA.





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