You knew from the start that there would be something tragic that would happen to at least one of the residents. At least it seemed a bit obvious to me. Billy wasn't that significant of a character leading up to his fate for it to register much. None of the characters were all that much. If Gene Hackman didn't turn down the part of McMurphy I wonder if it would be as fondly remembered as it is today. btw Nicholson wasn't really a movie star at the time, more of a respected than famous. Producer Michael Douglas said he got more fans talking to him on the set than Nicholson.