American Icons: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest | WBEZ
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Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

American Icons: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This is the story of America’s fight against authority.

Ken Kesey had worked in a mental hospital, but his first novel was really a parable of what happens when you stand up to the Man — a counterculture fable that doesn’t end well. Despite his far-reaching influence, Kesey was shut out by filmmakers who turned the story into an Oscar-sweeping phenomenon. Cuckoo’s Nest changed how many people thought about mental illness and institutions. Sherman Alexie debunks the myth of the silent Indian; we visit Oregon State Hospital, where the director played himself on screen; a psychiatrist explains how the movie gave mental hospitals a bad name, with tragic consequences; and actress Louise Fletcher takes us into the mind of one of the most fearsome movie villains, the sweet-faced Nurse Ratched. “She doesn’t see her behavior as it really is. Who does? Who sees that they’re really evil?”

(Originally aired September 20, 2013)

Passages from the audiobook narrated by Ken Kesey were provided courtesy of HighBridge Audio.

Bonus Track: Kurt Andersen's full interview with Louise Fletcher

Hear Kurt's entire conversation with Fletcher, including why "no studio in town would touch this movie," and how she was cast in the role for which she won an Oscar.


Behind-the-scenes of the film


Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, a new patient in the Oregon State Mental Hospital.


Jack Nicholson and another actor play a scene while director Milos Forman watches.


Nurse Ratched


Louise Fletcher on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with the cast and director Milos Forman (at right).


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