PRAGUE (Reuters) – Milos Forman, the Czech-born movie director who found fame in Hollywood with the Oscar-winning classics “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus,” has died at the age of 86.
Forman passed away on Friday in the United States, where he lived, after a short illness, his wife, Martina, told Czech news agency CTK on Saturday.
“His departure was calm and he was surrounded the whole time by his family and his closest friends,” she said.
Forman was born in the Czech town of Caslav on Feb. 18, 1932. He moved to the United States after the Communist crackdown on the “Prague Spring” uprising in 1968 and became a U.S. citizen in the 1970s.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in which a psychiatric institution becomes a microcosm of the contemporary world, and “Amadeus,” the life of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart through the eyes of his rival Antonio Salieri, earned 13 Oscars between them, including those for best director to Forman.
His other notable work included the rock musical “Hair” in 1979, “Ragtime” in 1981 and “The People vs Larry Flynt” in 1996, which was nominated for an Academy Award that year.
Jim Carrey, star of Forman’s 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon”, said on Twitter: “Another great one passes through the doorway. Milos Foreman. What a force. A lovely man. I’m glad we got to play together. It was a monumental experience.”
Larry Karaszewski, the co-writer for “Man on the Moon” and “The People vs Larry Flynt”, called Forman a master filmmaker.
“No one better at capturing small unrepeatable moments of human behavior,” he said on Twitter. “Milos loved life. I will miss his laughter.”
Before emigrating, Forman studied at the Prague Film Academy (FAMU) and was a leading figure of the Czechoslovak New Wave film movement, along with directors Ivan Passer, Vera Chytilova and others.
He was raised an orphan after both his parents died in concentration camps during World War Two.
His films, such as 1964’s “Black Peter” and the 1967 communist satire “The Fireman’s Ball”, were banned for a time in the former Czechoslovakia.
When Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague in August 1968, Forman was in Paris for negotiations on his first American production and was fired by his Czech studio, leading him to emigrate. The film Taking Off – a look at youth protest movements – found critical acclaim but little financial success
He remained connected to his birth country, filming Amadeus there.
Married three times, Forman met his third wife Martina – a writer three decades his junior – in Prague in the 1990s. He was father to two sets of twin boys, with his second and third wives.
Jan Hrebejk, a leading Czech film director and a friend and former classmate of Forman’s wife Martina, told Reuters the director was a gifted storyteller and a great person.
“In his films you can see the author,” he said. “When you watch them it’s as if that person is speaking to you, as the maker; not many people can do that.”
(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; editing by Angus MacSwan and Toby Chopra)