The Czech-born director Milos Forman, who twice won the Academy Award for Best Director for his films “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984) died on Friday at his home in the United States at 86 after a protracted battle with illness. His widow, Martina, told the Czech news agency CTK, “he died peacefully, surrounded by his family and loved ones.”
Forman was a politically-committed filmmaker during the communist era. Born on February 18, 1932 in the city of Cáslav, in Eastern Prague, Forman lost his parents in the Nazi concentration camps. In the sixties, he joined the new wave of filmmakers rising against the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia. He became known for his films “Black Peter,” “The loves of a blonde” and “The firemen’s ball.”
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Shortly before the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops in 1968, which ended a liberal period known as the Prague Spring, Forman moved to the United States via France. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1977. His overseas career began with “Taking Off” in 1971, followed four years later by “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” which earned Forman his first Oscar for Best Director, as well as four other Oscars (Best Film, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher and Best Adapted Screenplay) as well as six Golden Globes.
In 1983, he returned to Prague, still under communist rule, to shoot “Amadeus,” a film that became his second greatest success. “Amadeus,” which also won numerous accolades, including eight Oscars (Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Actor, among others), tells the story of the rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri, both at the court of Emperor Joseph II in Vienna.
Other notable films by Forman include, “Ragtime” (1981), “Man on the Moon” and “The People vs Larry Flynt” (1996) starring Woody Harrelson.
Forman wasn’t an extraordinarily prolific filmmaker compared to other filmmakers of his generation, but the few films he gave us, inspired and inspiring works of art in and of themselves, will live on. What’s striking is how compelling his portraits of an America in constant flux were, from “Man on the Moon,” a disquisition on the opaque enfant terrible Andy Kaufman, to the game-changing “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest,” a film that has yielded countless imitations and launched many a lively conversation.