Oscar-winning Czech-born film director Milos Forman, known for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus,” has died aged 86, Czech media said on Saturday.
The CTK news agency quoted his wife Martina as saying Forman, who lived in the United States, died suddenly on Friday after a short illness.
“He passed away quietly, surrounded by his family and his closest people,” she said.
Born in the town of Caslav east of Prague on February 18, 1932, Forman lost both parents in Nazi concentration camps.
In the 1960s, he joined the New Wave of filmmakers standing up against the Communist regime in former Czechoslovakia, making himself famous with “Black Peter,” “Loves of a Blonde” and “The Firemen’s Ball.”
Shortly before the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia, which put an end to a liberal period known as the Prague Spring, Forman moved to the United States via France.
His career overseas started with “Taking Off” in 1971, followed by “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” four years later, which brought Forman his first ‘best director’ Oscar.
“He was my dad’s best friend and we both looked up to him,” Czech director David Ondricek, the son of Forman’s cameraman Miroslav Ondricek, told the website of the DNES daily.
“He had a beautiful character and fantastic energy. People wanted to be near him, he was a fabulous narrator and a kind man,” Ondricek added.
Gilles Jacob, former director of the Cannes Film Festival, said Forman had been the only director who proceeded from the New Wave to “great, popular American author films covered with Oscars.”
“He loved beer, tennis, Cannes. He said: ‘Tell the truth, that’s all’,” Jacob tweeted.
An American citizen since 1977, Forman returned to still-Communist Prague in 1983 to film “Amadeus,” which earned him a second Oscar and which won eight out of 11 nominations. Forman’s other films include “Hair” (1979), “Ragtime” (1981), “Valmont” (1989) and “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996), which won him another best director Oscar nomination, as well as “Man on the Moon” (1999) and “Goya’s Ghosts” (2006).