Milos Forman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest director, dies at 86
Forman passed away on Friday night, his agent confirmed.
Milos Forman, the Oscar-winning director behind One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, died on Friday night, his agent, Dennis Aspland, confirmed to EW. He was 86.
Aspland said he received a text message from Forman’s wife, Martina Forman, with the news. No funeral arrangements have been made just yet. The New York Times also reports Forman, a native of the Czech Republic, passed away in Connecticut.
The filmmaking community is already feeling the pangs of losing such a talent.
“He had a tremendous filmography that documented the rebel heart and human spirit,” Baby Driver director Edgar Wright tweeted of the news. “I have seen ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ enough times to be able to silently mouth along with the movie.”
Adam McKay (The Big Short), Larry Karaszewski (American Crime Story producer), Jorge R. Gutierrez (The Book of Life), Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story), and James Mangold (Logan) also expressed sentiments.
“Crushed tonight to learn of the passing of one of the great teachers in my life, Milos Foreman,” Mangold wrote. “He leaves behind a beautiful and moving and artistically daring collection of films and also many other students touched by his generosity, charm and brilliance.”
Forman, born in Caslav, Czechoslovakia, told EW in 1999 about the first film he saw that truly spoke to him — a silent version of a Czech opera. “The curtain went up. You saw the bride start to sing. And at that moment, the whole theater started to sing along,” he said. “That’s what I thought the movies were about — to sing along. It fascinated me.”
The first feature film he made after a batch of documentaries was Black Peter, a 1964 coming-of-age tale about the first few days of a teenager’s life as he starts work. It began his exploration of antiestablishment, a theme he would return to. By 1967, he had produced The Firemen’s Ball that served as a satire of the government and, in the wake of the Soviet invasion of 1968, he found himself banned from the country for 20 years.
So he came to America. In the years that followed, he would make one of his most celebrated films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz had approached Forman about adapting the Ken Kesey book, and Jack Nicholson would go on to star. The film garnered five Oscar wins — including Forman’s first for Best Director — and it would help reunite the filmmaker with his sons.
“Several times before, I asked the Czech government to let my children come see me, and they never did. But when they learned this film was nominated for all these Academy Awards, they suddenly gave them permission to visit me,” he told EW. “It’s the paradox of a society that blames capitalism for the evil of this world, but nothing, nothing impresses them more than success in the capitalist world.”
Forman followed up this film with the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical Hair, the eight-time Oscar-nominated Ragtime, the eight-time Oscar-winning Amadeus, the Colin Firth-led Valmont, and The People vs. Larry Flynt (a film that almost earned Forman his third Best Director Oscar.)
“Miloš was truly one of ours,” Directors Guild of America President Thomas Schlamme said in a statement. “A filmmaker, artist, and champion of artists’ rights. His contribution to the craft of directing has been an undeniable source of inspiration for generations of filmmakers. His directorial vision deftly brought together provocative subject matter, stellar performances, and haunting images to tell the stories of the universal struggle for free expression and self-determination that informed so much of his work and his life.”
Antonio Banderas called Forman a “genius of cinematography and master in the portrayal of the human condition,” while Josh Gad called him an “icon.” See more responses from the movie world below.