Dean Brooks

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 16 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4478
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Head of the mental hospital where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed


In 1972, Hollywood producers decided that the Oregon State Hospital for mentally ill patients would be the perfect location to film a movie based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Indeed, the setting of the novel was at Oregon State Hospital.

Dean Brooks, hospital superintendent at the time, recalled decades later: “I warmed to the idea. I thought this would be great to have Hollywood come to [Oregon State Hospital].”1

An innovator, Brooks in 1969 wrote a paper on “dehumanisation” in mental hospitals2 and, in 1972, organised a 16 day wilderness trip for 50 patients that was featured in Life magazine.3 Brooks thought the movie, once released, would stimulate discussion on mental health issues, including patients’ rights. He also admitted that he thought filming a movie in the hospital would be “fun.”

His “boss” did not agree. “I got ordered . . . not to have anything to do with this, don’t even talk …

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