Adapted from a Ken Kesey novel and directed by Milos Forman, who sadly passed away on this day two years ago, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is rightly praised for its outstanding performances and genre-defining filming techniques. It’s also one of only three films to win all five major Academy Awards categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay); the other two are It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs.
But did you know…
1) Legendary actor Kirk Douglas had actually developed the book into an off-Broadway play in the 1960’s, and even had plans to turn it into a film, but they never gained momentum. Kirk’s son, Michael Douglas, loved the book so much he convinced his father to let him take the reins: “I had never thought about producing, but told my dad: ‘Let me run with this’”. The off-Broadway production featured Danny DeVito, who coincidentally was Michael Douglas’ roommate at the time, and was also the first person to be cast in the picture. He reprised his role as Martini, one of the patients in the psychiatric hospital.
2) Much of the film was shot at an actual psychiatric hospital in Oregon. The hospital’s director — Dean Brooks — wanted to incorporate the patients affected by the shoot into the production crew, and assigned them to different departments –– they even had an arsonist working in the art department. The patients also helped the cast getting into character by allowing themselves to be shadowed, and some of the actors even spent their nights sleeping in the wards. “We watched the patients in their daily routine and went to group therapy. Jack [Nicholson] and I watched electroconvulsive shock therapy one morning at 6am – that was heavy”, remembers Louise Fletcher, who played Nurse Ratched. “I didn’t want to make her a monster – I wanted to make her believable as a real person in those circumstances […] I saw very clearly how people can believe that they’re doing is good and they know best.”
3) The title of the movie is never spoken in the film. It comes from a line of Oliver Goldsmith poetry recited by Chief Bromden in the novel, after receiving electroshock therapy:
Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.