Milos Forman, Oscar-winning director of 'Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Amadeus' dies at 86
Milos Forman, a Czech-born filmmaker who fled his homeland in the 1960s and became a two-time Oscar winner as the director of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus," with films that highlighted madness, rebellion and free expression, died April 14 at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut. He was 86.
His agent, Dennis Aspland, announced the death in a statement. The cause was not disclosed.
After making acclaimed films in Czechoslovakia, Forman left his country for good in 1968 after the Soviet crackdown on the short-lived period of relatively free political and artistic expression known as Prague Spring.
After settling in the United States, he drew on his experiences in totalitarian regimes while making such films as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," a dark comedy set in a grim, prisonlike mental asylum, based on the novel by Ken Kesey.
The 1975 film, which starred Jack Nicholson as a rebellious ringleader inside the institution, was a commercial and artistic breakthrough for Forman and swept the top honors at the Academy Awards, winning for best picture, best director, best actor and best actress (Louise Fletcher as the stone-hearted Nurse Ratched).
After making other films, including "Hair" (1979) and "Ragtime" (1981), Forman directed 1984's "Amadeus," based on Peter Shaffer's play about 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
With some trepidation, Forman returned to Czechoslovakia to make "Amadeus" because Prague was one of the few European cities that had been little changed since Mozart's time. With lavish costumes, Mozart's ravishing music and exceptional performances from actors Tom Hulce as Mozart and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri, Forman scored another artistic triumph.
"Amadeus" won eight Academy Awards, including for best picture and for Forman as best director.
He received a third Oscar nomination for his 1996 film, "The People vs. Larry Flynt," a raucous and randy account of the First Amendment battles of Hustler magazines publisher Larry Flynt, who was played by Woody Harrelson.
Forman said the film's central issues of censorship and free expression were influenced by his youth in Eastern Europe, when filmmakers and other artists were limited in what they could say by the communist regime.
Forman was born Feb. 18, 1932, in Caslav, Czechoslovakia. Both of his parents died in Nazi concentrations camps during the Holocaust in World War II.
Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004. He previously worked for publications in Washington, New York, North Carolina and Florida.