The veterans who influenced ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

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jack nicholson

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an iconic and timeless film, especially with lead actor Jack Nicholson. The film is a psychological comedy-drama about a new patient in a mental institution who battles with the head nurse, Mildred Ratched. The film grossed $163M at the box office on an estimated budget of about $4M and is based on the novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. It won five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor in a Lead Role, Actress in a Lea Role, Director and Screenplay. The film is worth watching and has some epic moments sprinkled throughout its strong narrative.

Here are the veterans who influenced ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Saul Zaentz

receiving oscars
Michael Douglas, Milos Forman, Louise Flecther, Jack Nicholson and Saul Zaentz at the 48th Academy Awards after having received their Oscars.

Saul Zaentz served as a producer on the film and won one of his three Academy Awards for Best Picture with the film. The other winners for Zaentz as a producer are Amadeus and The English Patient. He served in WWII in the U.S. Army. After leaving the service he followed his initial passion for music and studied at Rutgers using his GI Bill. He found success in music, especially with his collaboration with Creedence Clearwater Revival.

He financed films from the profits of his work and the success of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Zaentz partnered with Michael Douglas for the production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as well. Post his success with the film he created his own production company and continued his work in the industry well into the 2000s.

Bo Goldman

Bo Goldman on set with Michael Douglas
Bo Goldman on set with Michael Douglas.

Bo Goldman has twice earned the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Melvin and Howard. Before all of his writing success, he attended Princeton and post-graduation served a three-year tour with the U.S. Army as a personnel sergeant on Enewetak, which is an atoll that is part of the Marshall Island in the Central Pacific known for nuclear bomb testing.

Post-service, Goldman worked on Broady as a lyricist and then went to work in television. Goldman continued to write lyrics for certain productions as well. He then transitioned to film and further wrote or revised such titles as The Rose, Ragtime, Dick Tracy, Meet Joe Black and The Perfect Storm.

William Redfield

scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
William Redfield, Sydney Lassick and Jack Nicholson from a scene in the film.

William Redfield started out acting at 9 years old in a Broadway Production of Swing Your Lady and also appeared in the original production of Our Town. He was a founding member of New York’s Actors Studio. His resume includes further theatre credits such as A Man For All Seasons, Hamlet and Dude.

He is most known for his portrayal of Dale Harding in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, however, he acted in many other projects on film and TV such as Fantastic Voyage, The Connection, Rookie Cop, As The World Turns, Naked City, Gunsmoke, Maude, Bewitched and The Bob Newhart Show. In between his Broadway career and transition to TV, he served in the U.S. Army in WWII. Redfield was an infantryman and earned the rank of technician fifth grade. We are glad he made it back and graced the silver screen with such a memorable character as Dale Harding.

William Sampson

William Sampson Jr. was a Muscogee painter, actor and rodeo performer. His is from Muscogee heritage, a people from the Southeastern Woodlands. He portrays Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and earned critical acclaim in the role.

It was his first big role in a film as well which led to further parts in films such as White Buffalo with Charles Bronson, The Outlaw Josey Wales with Clint Eastwood and Poltergeist II: The Other Side. He served in the U.S. Navy, likely in the 1950s or early 1960s before coming to acting and of notoriety. He opened many doors to Native Americans in the entertainment industry before his untimely passing at age 53. His son portrayed Chief Bromden in the 2001 Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Jack Nicholson

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest cast
Nicholson is on set leading his cast in some rabble rousings.

Jack Nicholson is a man known for his acting and memorable characters. Whether it be in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, The Departed, Chinatown or even Batman, Nicholson is one of the greatest actors of all time. He has three Oscars to his name, two for Best Actor (Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good As It Gets) and one for Best Supporting Actor (Terms of Endearment). He is the most nominated male actor for the Academy Awards with 12 nominations.

Before gaining stardom, he served in the California Air National Guard as a firefighter. He was stationed at the Van Nuys Airport for reserve duties and was activated for several months to support the Berlin Crisis of 1961. Post-service he transitioned to working for Hanna Barbera at the MGM cartoon studio as an office worker. They offered him an entry-level job as an animator but he declined because he wanted to be an actor. He worked in a lot of Roger Corman films and TV including The Andy Griffith Show before he made his big leap with Easy Rider. His career took off in the 1970s and now he is in the record books and film cinema history.

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