Milos Forman, the director who immigrated from Czecholslavakia to the United States in 1968 and went on to direct such classic films as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, died yesterday after a reported short illness. He was 86.
Forman first rose to prominence as a director in his home country of Czechoslovakia as one of the leaders of the country’s New Wave cinema in the mid-1960s. However, his film The Fireman’s Ball and its satirical critique of governmental beauracracy did not sit well with the country’s communist regime. When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, Forman was in Paris working on closing a deal to direct his first Hollywood film, the comedy Taking Off.
Always strongly anti-authoritarian, Forman infused that trait in his next film, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Adapted from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel about life inside an Oregon mental institution the film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won five including Best Picture, Director, Actor (for Jack Nicholson), Actress (Louise Fletcher) and Adapted Screenplay.
After big screen adaptations of the musical Hair and the novel Ragtime, Forman directed what would be his next Academy Award nominated feature – Amadeus. Forman had seen the play that the film was based on at its very first preview performance and immediately went to playwright Peter Shaffer to pitch himself should the play ever be adapted into a film. With Tom Hulce starring as iconic composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the film earned eleven Oscar nominations, winning eight Oscar statuettes including those for Best Picture and Director.
It would be another 16 years before Forman would have a shot at Oscar gold. This time it was The People vs. Larry Flynt which told the real life story of Hustler publisher Larry Flint and his First Amendment battle with the government. The film would land Forman his third and last Best Director nomination while star Woody Harrelson would get a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Flint.
Forman would continue his look at iconoclastic Americans in 1999’s Man On The Moon, which examined the life of comedian Andy Kaufman. He followed that up with another biopic, this one based on the life of Baroque painter Francisco Goya, 2006’s Goya’s Ghosts. His final film was his 2009 adaptation of the Jirí Suchý play A Walk Worthwhile.