Director/Screenwriter, two-time Academy Award winner as Best Director for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, has managed in his career to combine and assimilate the best of European and American filmmaking traditions. He is one of a handful of foreign directors to achieve international success without being pigeon-holed by genre or nationality, and his films celebrate individualism and concentrate on individual human behavior. Three actors have won Academy Awards in his films, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus. In 1996, Forman received his third Academy Award nomination as Best Director for The People vs. Larry Flynt, also earning its star Woody Harrelson a Best Actor nomination.
The youngest of three sons, Forman was born in Čáslav (Czechoslovakia). At the age of nine, his parents were arrested by the Gestapo and later perished in the Nazi death camps, leaving him to be raised by relatives. He became interested in theater while attending a boarding school for children orphaned by the war. He found himself especially taken by the comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and the westerns of John Ford. Forman enrolled in the University of Prague’s Film Institute, where he studied with Ivan Passer. After graduation, he wrote his first screenplays and made two short semi-documentaries. In 1963, he directed his first feature, an autobiographical account of a teenager in a small Czech town called Black Peter. The film was a success at various films festivals, including Cannes, Montreal and New York, and led to Forman’s first visit to America. His next two films, Loves of a Blonde (1965) and Fireman’s Ball (1967) brought the director further international acclaim. When Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague in August 1968, Forman was in Paris to negotiate the making of his first American film. He returned briefly to Prague, and then moved to New York to make Taking Off. The film was the official USA entry at the 1971 Cannes film festival, where it was awarded the jury prize.
He next participated in the collective documentary about the 1972 Munich Olympics, Visions of Eight, in a segment about the decathlon. In 1973, producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz gave the director a copy of the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and asked if he’d be interested in directing the motion picture version. The film swept the top five 1975 Academy Award categories - best picture, screenplay, actor and actress, and Forman took home the statue as best director. He followed Cuckoo’s Nest with the film version of the long-running musical Hair (1979) and then lured James Cagney out of retirement to join the ensemble cast of Forman’s film version of E. L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime (1981). Eight years after Cuckoo’s Nest, Forman teamed again with producer Saul Zaentz, and returned to his homeland of Czechoslovakia to make Amadeus (1984). Once again, Forman was presented with the Oscar as best director for the film, which won a total of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. Forman’s other films include Valmont (1989) starring Annette Bening and Colin Firth, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), and Man on the Moon (1999) about the life of comedian Andy Kaufman starring Jim Carrey. The production of Goya’s Ghosts marks Forman third collaboration with Saul Zaentz.
Together with his two sons Petr and Matěj Forman he won the Sazka and Společnost pro Divadelní noviny Awards for the production of A Walk Worthwhile at the National Theatre (2007).
Update: October 2007