The Story of Famed Czech Director Miloš Forman (Part II)

via Wikimedia / Zff2012
via Wikimedia / Zff2012

Note: click here to read the first part of this story


Having made a documentary about the Semafor theatre, Forman, along with Ivan Passer and Miroslav Ondříček turned their attention to a semi-documentary titled The Audition (in Czech, Konkurs). They put the word out that they were auditioning for a female singer, and were swamped with eager applicants. Several of these false auditions were put into the final film. That same year (1964), Forman and his second wife, actress Věra Křesadlová-Formanová, became the parents of twin sons, Petr and Matĕj

Forman’s films after The Audition, include Black Peter (in Czech, Černy Petr), The Loves of a Blonde (in Czech, Lásky jedné plavovlásky), and The Fireman’s Ball (in Czech, Horí, má panenko). This last film was Forman’s first color film. Released in 1967, it was banned by the Communist authorities in 1968, though entered into competition for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Film in 1969.

In 1967, Forman was allowed to visit the United States to direct a movie for Paramount Pictures. He and his friend Ivan Passer lived in New York’s famous Greenwich Village, where they rented a house on Leroy Street.

In 1971, Forman finally made his first American film, Taking Off, about parents who “find themselves” after their teenaged daughter runs away. It was critically panned upon its release, and Forman found himself in a sort of limbo, unable to find work in the States, but refusing to return to Communist Czechoslovakia. He moved into the Chelsea Hotel, living on meager funds.

Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas had long been interested in making a movie of Ken Kesey’s classic novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with himself in the part of Randle P. McMurphy. Finally, his son Michael gained the rights and put the movie in the works – but with another actor in the lead, as Kirk was now deemed too old to play the part. Kirk had already offered Forman the job of director on the film, but the letter had been snatched by the Communist authorities. Now, however, Michael Douglas sought out Forman for the very same reason, and now, Forman could – and did – accept.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest became the second film in Academy history to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (adapted), Best Actor, and Best Actress. It made Forman’s career. In 1977, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He directed Hair in 1979, and in 1984, he came out with one of his best films: Amadeus. Based on the play by Peter Shaffer, the film imagines a deadly rivalry between the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his contemporary, the well-heeled but mediocre composer Antonio Salieri. It also reunited Forman with his old friend Miroslav Ondříček, who was the cinematographer on the film, which was shot in Prague.

Forman’s films after Amadeus include Valmont, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man on the Moon. In addition, he acted in the comedy Keeping the Faith, directed by actor Edward Norton.

Forman and his third wife, Martina Zbořilová, live in Connecticut. They have twin sons, Jim and Andy.

Erin Naillon

Erin Naillon

I am an American living and working in Prague. I freelance in various areas, including photography/film, voice work, and, of course, writing.
Erin Naillon