Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, whose American movies “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus” won a deluge of Academy Awards, including best director Oscars, died Saturday. He was 86.
Forman died about 2 a.m. Saturday at Danbury Hospital, near his home in Warren, Connecticut, according to a statement released by the former director’s agent, Dennis Aspland. Aspland said Forman’s wife, Martina, notified him of the death.
When Forman arrived in Hollywood in the late 1960s, he was lacking in both money and English skills, but carried a portfolio of Czechoslovakian films much admired internationally for their quirky, lighthearted spirit. Among them were “Black Peter,” ″Loves of a Blonde” and “The Fireman’s Ball.”
The orphan of Nazi Holocaust victims, Forman had abandoned his homeland after communist troops invaded in 1968 and crushed a brief period of political and artistic freedom known as the Prague Spring.
In America, his record as a Czech filmmaker was enough to gain him entree to Hollywood’s studios, but his early suggestions for film projects were quickly rejected. Among them were an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s novel “Amerika” and a comedy starring entertainer Jimmy Durante as a wealthy bear hunter in Czechoslovakia.
After his first U.S. film, 1971′s “Taking Off,” flopped, Forman didn’t get a chance to direct a major feature again for years. He occupied himself during part of that time by covering the decathlon at the 1972 Olympics for the documentary “Visions of Eight.”
“Taking Off,” an amusing look at generational differences in a changing America, had won praise from critics who compared it favorably to Forman’s Czech films. But without any big-name stars it quickly tanked at the box office.
Actor Michael Douglas gave Forman a second chance, hiring him to direct “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” which Douglas was co-producing.
The 1975 film, based on Ken Kesey’s novel about a misfit who leads mental institution inmates in a revolt against authority, captured every major Oscar at that year’s Academy Awards, the first film to do so since 1934″s “It Happened One Night.”
The winners included Jack Nicholson as lead actor, Louise Fletcher as lead actress, screenwriters Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, Forman as director and the film itself for best picture.
The director, who worked meticulously, spending months with screenwriters and overseeing every aspect of production, didn’t release another film until 1979′s “Hair.”