Tag Archives: memorable characters

MEMORABLE FILM CHARACTERS #5 – NURSE RATCHED

MEMORABLE FILM CHARACTERS #5 – NURSE RATCHED

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Directed by: Miloš Forman

Produced by: Saul Zaentz, Michael Douglas

Screenplay by: Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman

Based on: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, William Redfield, Danny Devito, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd etc.



“Now calm down. The best thing we can do is go on with our daily routine.” Nurse Ratched


Not all film monsters come from outer space or the mountains of Transylvania or from beyond the grave. In fact, some of the scariest monsters from literature and the silver screen are often humans. A magnificent example of this is Ken Kesey’s controlling matriarch figure from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nurse Mildred Ratched. Even the name conjures up feelings of evil, manipulation and pain. There has been a recent Netflix origin story with Sarah Paulson in the iconic role, however, today I will concentrate on Louise Fletcher’s mesmerising rendition of authoritarian villainy.

Evil comes in many guises and can be overt, perverted or, in Nurse Ratched’s case, extremely covert. She is the personification of calm on the outside, but clearly raging with poison and anger on the inside. Her obsessive desire for routine and control makes her ideal to be the Head of the Department, however, it is the burning internal joy she appears to take from manipulating and bullying the inmates which makes her an extremely dangerous person. The battle of wills she has with Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) powerfully drives the narrative in the film. Nicholson gives an electric performance as the convict faking lunacy. But he is more than matched by the subtle pragmatism in Louise Fletcher’s portrayal. Both deservedly won Academy Awards.

Apparently the role of Nurse Ratched was offered to esteemed actresses such as Anne Bancroft, Angela Lansbury and Geraldine Page, but eventually Milos Forman and his producers offered the role to then unknown, Louise Fletcher. It’s a serendipitous piece of casting as a well-known actress would arguably have provided less surprise within the characterisation. Fletcher herself has commented that she felt Ratched was a virgin. Further going on to say in an interview with Vanity Fair, “She hasn’t married, hadn’t done this, hadn’t done that, and was self-sufficient on her own leading this life, because she dedicated her life, her earlier life, to other people who needed her.” Perhaps this caring for others eventually wore her down and Ratched may suffer from compassion fatigue. Either that or she is genuinely the most insane person in the asylum, while ruling with quiet and ruthless efficiency.


MEMORABLE FILM CHARACTERS #4 – WITHNAIL

MEMORABLE FILM CHARACTERS #4 – WITHNAIL

Written and directed by: Bruce Robinson

Produced by: Paul Heller

Cast: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Ralph Brown, Richard Griffiths


***CONTAINS SPOILERS***



“We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!” Withnail


I am not one to believe in fate, but there has to be something magical about the random moment, at the age of seventeen, I was perusing my local video shop looking for a film to rent, and the cover of low-budget, British independent character drama, Withnail and I (1987), shone amidst the variety of Hollywood produced fodder. I picked up the box and for some reason the story of two unemployed actors mooching about at the fag end of the 1960s called to me. Perhaps it was the front cover featuring the debauched and worse-for-wear looking character of Withnail which drew me in? Or was it the casting of Paul McGann as the eponymous ‘I’, an actor I recognised from excellent TV drama, The Monocled Mutineer. Whatever the reasons, I rented the film and a special bond was formed forthwith. It lasts to this day.

Firmly in my top-ten-line-for-line-best-dialogue-ever-movies, Withnail and I (1987) simply bursts with memorable spats, insults, one-liners, and speeches. Another major strength of Bruce Robinson’s elegantly profane screenplay is the relationship between permanently inebriated and cowardly ‘thespian’, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and his buddy, ‘I’ (McGann). It is a strange friendship full of mutual disrespect, petty bickering, and envy, but by the end of the film a kindly form of love is revealed. Withnail may seem an angry man, but ultimately, he’s using that ire to hide pain, sadness, and disappointment.




“I feel like a pig shat in my head.” Withnail


Richard E. Grant is incredible as the paralytic, pathetic and cowardly Withnail, who, along with ‘I’, laments a lack of career opportunities. Such bitterness, jealousy and ranting make him hugely obnoxious. However, Robinson’s exquisite writing and Grant’s subtly empathetic performance actually create an incredibly poignant character. Well, that and he’s absolutely hilarious, Indeed, it’s a hedonistic joy witnessing Withnail drinking every liquid known to humanity as he attempts to obliterate the now and tomorrow. Unbelievably, Richard E. Grant was teetotal, so director Bruce Robinson had to get him very, very drunk in preparation for a role he never bettered in his whole career.

Bruce Robinson, arguably, never reached the heights of Withnail and I (1987) again, although he does have other impressive writing credits. But this screenplay is one of the greatest ever written; conversely making it one of the funniest and tragic films of all time. Lastly, his often quoted but rarely bettered work is one of the greatest I have ever read, brimming with towering poetry, bilious insults, and drunken repartee. I mean there is little plot to the story of two actors getting drunk, going to the country, getting drunk and coming back. However, it remains one of my favourite films of all time, with one of the most memorable characters in Withnail.


MEMORABLE FILM CHARACTERS #1 – SARAH CONNOR

MEMORABLE FILM CHARACTERS #1 – SARAH CONNOR



**CONTAINS SPOILERS**


Having briefly explored what makes up film character personas in this article here, I thought it would be fun to start a new feature which looks at memorable film characters. So, with Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) in the cinema, I wanted to look at one of the greatest character narrative arcs ever in my opinion. When I say character arc, I am talking of the transformation of a character throughout a film or films. Because for me, the arc of Sarah Connor is absolutely brilliant.

I haven’t seen Terminator: Dark Fate (2019), as for me, the Terminator franchise is a spent force narratively speaking. I’m sure it’s a great spectacle, but I am more interested in speaking about James Cameron’s first two genre masterpieces. I am specifically intrigued by Sarah Connor movement from timid waitress to hardcore rebel fighter. Thus, Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke’s turns as the character are ignored here.



The genius of James Cameron’s original film The Terminator (1984) is how it is both simple and complex at the same time. It takes time travel tropes, which while very familiar today, were extremely fresh and exciting back in the 1980s. Mashing up ideas from literary science fiction, Star Trek , The Twilight Zone and films like Westworld (1973), Cameron gave us one of the greatest bad guys and heroines ever committed to film. Plus, he did it all on a $7 million budget!!

At the heart of the sci-fi, war and thriller genres is an intriguing character study and even a love story. The Terminator (1984) introduces Sarah Connor as a waitress who is having a bad day. It’s about to get worse. She has been murdered and it’s on TV. Well, it’s not her, but someone with the same name as her. Very quickly she is confronted by a man from the future, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), claiming she is the mother of the person who will be a future saviour. How do you process THAT?!? Mind blown!!



Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor then find themselves pursued by a futuristic cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger), hell bent on her destruction. Here she learns more and more about the future and how machines will take control, but her son, John, will lead the resistance. Thus, over the course of the film, as Sarah learns about her fate, the audience learns too. Sarah begins as a conduit and passive, before transforming slowly into an aggressive and battle-hardened fighter.

When the events of Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), come around we meet a whole different kind of Sarah Connor. She has transformed into a muscular and angry revolutionary. Not surprisingly, her narratives about future robots and the apocalypse find her sectioned. But, we know she is telling the truth. Moreover, due to her toughness, guile and resourcefulness, she is now very capable. No four walls will hold Sarah Connor.

Finally, Linda Hamilton’s performance must be praised too. In the first film she is a small character, quiet, likeable and lacking confidence. Over the course of the two films her physical, mental and emotional transformation is very impressively rendered. Cameron’s writing and Hamilton’s commitment to the role make Sarah Connor a highly memorable film character for me.