Estelle Louise Fletcher was born on July 22, 1934, in Birmingham, Alabama. She is an actress who initially debuted in television series such as Maverick in 1959 before being cast in Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us. The following year, Louise 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. Other notable film roles include Brainstorm, Firestarter, Flowers in the Attic, 2 Days in the Valley, and Cruel Intentions.
Later into her career, Louise returned to television, appearing as Kai 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. Most recently, Louise has appeared in a recurring role on the Showtime television series Shameless in 2011 and 2012, as Frank Gallagher's foul-mouthed and hard-living mother who is serving a prison sentence for manslaughter.
Louise was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the second of four children to Estelle Caldwell and the Reverend Robert Capers Fletcher, an Episcopal priest from Arab, Alabama. Both of her parents were deaf and worked with the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Louise's father founded more than 40 churches for the deaf in Alabama. Louise 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.
CareerLouise began appearing in several television series, including Lawman in 1958 and Maverick in 1959. Also in 1959, she appeared in the second episode of the original Untouchables TV series, Ma Barker and Her Boys as Elouise. In 1960 Fletcher made two guest appearances on Perry Mason, both times as the defendant.
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, Altman decided to cast Lily Tomlin for the role of Linnea Reese, initially created for and by Louise. Meanwhile, director Miloš Forman saw Louise in Thieves and consequently cast her as McMurphy's nemesis Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Louise gained international recognition and fame for the role, winning Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as a BAFTA Award and Golden Globe. When Louise accepted her Oscar, she used sign language to thank her parents.After Cuckoo's Nest, Louise had mixed success in film. She made several financially and critically successful film, while others were box office failures. Louise's film roles were in such features as Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Cheap Detective, The Lady in Red, The Magician of Lublin, Brainstorm, Firestarter, Invaders from Mars, Flowers in the Attic, Two Moon Junction, Best of the Best, Blue Steel, Virtuosity, High School High, and Cruel Intentions. 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.
Louise co-starred in such made-for-TV movies as The Karen Carpenter Story, Nightmare on the 13th Floor, The Haunting of Seacliff Inn, and The Stepford Husbands. 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, and later on Joan of Arcadia. In 2009, Louise 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.
Louise married literary agent and producer Jerry Bick in 1959, divorcing in 1978. The couple had two sons, John Dashiell Blick and Andrew Wilson Blick. Louise took an 11-year hiatus from acting to raise her sons.