Oscar Directors: Forman, Milos–Two Time Award Winner

Born on February 18, 1932, in Caslav, Czechoslovakia, Milos Forman is the son of a Jewish professor of edu­cation and his Protestant wife. He lost both parents in Nazi con­centration camps and was raised by relatives.

A graduate of Prague’s Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he began writ­ing screenplays in the mid‑1950s, and made his directorial debut in 1963 with two medium‑length films, Audition/Talent Competition and If There Were No Music.

He won the first prize at the Locarno Film Fest for his first feature, Black Peter, and scored critical and commercial triumphs with his next films, Loves of a Blonde and The Fire­men’s Ball. In these films, Forman revealed interest in the comedic side of human foibles, stressing improvisation in the development of his characters, and casting actors who could unveil their own as well as the characters’ inner secrets. His forte is ironic comedy and his milieu that of ordinary people in their daily lives, with the generation gap as a recurrent theme. His burst of free creativity was made possible by the brief “liberal spring” in Czech politics of the mid‑1960s.

Forman was in Paris in August of 1968, scouting a film project, when the Russians invaded his homeland. He remained in France as an expatriate and in 1969 came to New York with fellow director Ivan Passer. Following an abortive deal with Paramount, Forman was backed by Universal for his first American film, Taking Off (1971), in which he returned to the generation gap theme.

He was one of the international team of directors who covered the 1972 Munich Olympics in Visions of Eight, handling the decathlon episode.

In 1975, he scored a tremendous personal triumph with the US film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a big box‑office hit and the winner in a sweep of all top five Oscars–best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor, and best actress-a feat accomplished only once before, by Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934).

Forman followed this success with a less spirited and imaginative screen version of the musical Hair (1979) and an effort at colorfully evocative adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime (1981).

He then scored another huge triumph with a sumptuous production, of Amadeus (1984), the winner of several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

An American citizen since 1975, Forman was appointed that same year as full professor and co‑director of the film division of Columbia University.