AMY: Isn't this the one we are going to abandon. Looking at it again, I think it's best. MKL

Heather; we added some info to this--can you recheck the bolded sections? I'm curious about the ECT correlation in particular. --Amy


Thank you so much for this important new entry to the Oregon Encyclopedia. The entry has been reviewed and checked for accuracy, and our reviewers have recommended some substantial changes. The most important suggestion is that you recast the entry to expand on the first paragraph and focus on the movie itself, not on the hospital where it was filmed. To be authoritative, the entry needs more about the adaptation of Kesey’s book, with a short synopsis of the film; the actors who appeared in the film and the awards they won because of it; and something about the film’s endurance over time. Reviewers also ask that you include any information available about Kesey’s involvement and/or reaction to the film. You should think about the hospital and building as a part of the larger story. And can you clarify the consequences of the filming to the hospital, as suggested in some of the reforms at OSH. You might want to take a look at the Animal House entry by Jim Schepke for some ideas. Thank you for spending more time to make this entry stronger and more authoritative. We are grateful for your time and look forward to seeing the revision.—Marianne Keddington-Lang, managing editor

In January 1975, the Saul Zaentz movie production company began filming One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest inside the J Building at Oregon State Hospital in Salem. Based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, the film was produced by Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz and directed by Milos Forman. Filming took eleven weeks, from January through March, and more than ninety patients and many employees participated in the production. The movie won five Academy Awards in 1976, the first film in forty-one years to win best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best screenplay.

Starring Cast:

Jack Nicholson as "R.P. McMurphy," won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.  Louise Fletcher as "Nurse Ratched," won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Will Sampson played "Chief Bromden."

Supporting Cast: 

Brad Dourif as "Billy Bibbit," won the 1976 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year-Actor. Christopher Lloyd as "Taber," Danny Devito as "Martini," William Redfield as "Harding," and Scatman Crothers as "Turkle." ( (

Ken Kesey was initially involved in the screen writing process, but left all involvement with the film after two weeks of production.  His main protest was that he desired Gene Hackman to play the role of R.P. McMurphy instead of Jack Nicholson.  He was also upset that Chief Bromden was not the narrator in the film, as he is in the novel.  Kesey initiated and won a law suit against the producers. Kesey claimed he never watched the movie. (

While Kesey’s explicitly set the plot in Oregon, the OSH was not the first choice for the filming location. Forty other mental health asylums and hospitals rejected the film’s request to shoot inside their buildings before Dr. Dean Brooks, the superintendent of the OSH accepted (Merritt 2000, 280). “People both above and below me were reluctant to let the movie company shoot here, but after considering all the aspects, I was in favor of giving permission. And the project’s been beneficial to the patients.” Despite the amount of damage to the building that occurred as a result of filming, the hospital was only paid $250 a day for the use of the location (  

Brooks brought significant changes to the hospital where he served as superintendent from 1955 to 1981. The reforms aimed to maintain and reinforce each patient’s sense of worth and self-respect. They included “napkins at meals, drinking glasses on the wards, doors on the toilet stalls, and personal lockers for individual patients.” Brooks also developed and implemented a recreational camping program for patients into the Anthony Lakes Wilderness Area. Seeing a way to extend this program of outreach, Brooks suggested that actors interact with patients as a way to portray the patients with dignity and as a way for patients to connect with the outside world. The actors observed therapy sessions and watched and cheered the patient basketball games. This exercise worked so well, Michael Douglas remembered, “After eight weeks filming at the hospital, you could not tell the actors from the inmates.”

Rumors arose in Hollywood “that Jack [Nicholson] was so moved by what he saw that he personally used the finished film to try to convince then-Governor Ronald Reagan to institute reforms to California’s housing and treatment for the mentally disturbed.” The scene where McMurphy unwent electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, caused the procedure to be discredited and the method became widely discouraged. (

Superintendent Brooks, in contrast, hoped audiences would watch the film and “realize that the hospital horrors portrayed in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are fictional.” Concerned that, “some people take what they see on the screen as gospel,” Brooks required by contract that the film carry “a disclaimer emphasizing that” it did not “present conditions in Oregon State hospital.” Nevertheless the film became inexorably attached to the hospital. The OSH now also accommodates the Museum of Mental Health. At the museum’s opening, Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched) made an appearance. Inside the museum, on a television set used in the film, a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest plays on a continuous loop.  [It’s not clear why this is important.]