Louise Fletcher made Nurse Ratched one of the most famous movie villains, but she almost wasn’t cast in the role. These were all the other candidates.

Ratched brought back the most heinous fictional nurse ever with Sarah Paulson as the new Nurse Ratched actress, yet none of the character’s popularity would exist without Louise Fletcher, the original actress from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Milos Forman’s 1975 adaptation of Ken Kesey’s eponymous novel is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made. This is due in large part to its highly-acclaimed cast, which includes the likes of Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and Brad Dourif, with Michael Douglas as the film’s producer.

Jack Nicholson stars as Randle McMurphy, a criminal who becomes the latest newcomer of Oregon State Hospital after pleading insanity to get out of prison labor. Once inside, he bonds with the rest of the patients and faces the tyrannical authority of the head nurse, the vicious Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Although Cuckoo’s Nest has plenty of achievements to pride itself on, such as its five major Academy Awards (the second film ever to achieve so), it’s Nurse Ratched who has become the definitive emblem of the movie. Louise Fletcher delivered such a masterful performance that she managed to turn a regular human character into one of the most twisted villains in movie history. However, that almost wasn’t the case. Casting director Fred Roos suggested Fletcher to director Milos Forman, and she quickly started chasing the part, but Forman first offered the role to several actresses with more solid acting backgrounds.

Related: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: Which Version Is Better? Book vs. Movie

Milos Forman Considered Many Actresses For Nurse Ratched

Actresses Who Almost Played Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

More than 40 years after her award-winning performance, it’s hard not to imagine Fletcher as Ratched. But Milos Forman had a list of candidates to become the Nurse Ratched actress that included Anne Bancroft, Angela Lansbury of Murder She Wrote fame, Ellen Burstyn, and Geraldine Page (via Vanity Fair). The most famous candidate in Milos’s list was Jane Fonda, who was at the height of her career shortly after Barbarella and her Academy Award-winning performance in Klute.

Forman also offered the part to Colleen Dewhurst, who was then known as one of the “Queens of Off-Broadway,” and is the mother of actor Campbell Scott. Dewhurst, Burstyn, and Bancroft might have implemented some of the traits that made them highly-lauded thespians, but they might not have brought the unique authenticity that Fletcher demonstrated with her undying determination to get the part. When Forman pursued Shelley Duvall for the role of Candy Starr, he realized Louise Fletcher’s potential, as they both acted in Thieves Like Us.

To the surprise of some thriller fans, All of Me star Lily Tomlin was Forman’s closest candidate for his Nurse Ratched actress while Fletcher was preparing to play Linnea Reese in Nashville, but what Forman saw in her back then was enough for him to make his final decision. Fletcher’s unstoppable determination also helped her get cast, as it took her over a year and several auditions to finally get the role. As Ratched, she demonstrated an expert ability to depict the perfect balance of cold calculation and a dictatorial thirst for control, yet she also injected the character with a nuanced human side with somewhat dutiful intentions that made her a complex character.

Louise Fletcher made Nurse Ratched a more evil antagonist than most mustache-twirling villains, and she achieved it without the need for hellish lairs or magical superpowers. It’s unlikely that any other actress could have understood the character so well, despite the other candidates’ impressive careers. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest couldn’t have had a better casting, and it seems Netflix’s first season of Ratched knows it, as the show took several creative liberties to utilize the character and avoid predictable comparisons as much as possible.

RELATED: Ratched Season 1 Ending Explained

Sarah Paulson Was The Obvious Choice For Ratched In The Netflix Show

Nurse Mildred Ratched with an ice pick in promotional art for Ratched on Netflix.

Fans might see Sarah Paulson as the obvious choice to play Nurse Ratched, but she actually wasn’t Ryan Murphy’s first choice. History repeated itself when Murphy began work on the Ratched series. Murphy initially tried to dissuade Paulson when he knew she was interested in the part because of Louise Fletcher’s “arguably perfect” take on the character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, saying Paulson might not want to, “take a bite out of that.” Paulson, however, didn’t give up, much like Fletcher herself.

In addition to getting Murphy to send her the script, Paulson also told him she would “throw a tantrum” if she didn’t get the chance to be the Nurse Ratched actress. Paulson was so dedicated to the part that Murphy eventually agreed. The role earned Paulson a Golden Globe nomination alongside the previous Emmy nominations she earned working with Murphy on American Horror Story and American Crime Story.

Next: What To Expect From Ratched Season 2

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