Miloš Forman

Miloš Forman

Forman at the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2009
Born Jan Tomáš Forman
(1932-02-18) 18 February 1932
Čáslav, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic)
Occupation Actor, director, screenwriter
Years active 1953–present
Spouse(s) Jana Brejchová (1958–62; divorced)
Vera Kresadlova-Formanova (1964–99; divorced; 2 children)
Martina Zborilova-Forman (1999–present; 2 children)

Jan Tomáš Forman (Czech: [ˈjan ˈtomaːʃ ˈforman]; born 18 February 1932), known as Miloš Forman ([ˈmɪloʃ ˈforman]), is a Czech film director, screenwriter, actor, and professor, who until 1968 lived and worked primarily in Czechoslovakia.

Forman was one of the most important directors of the Czechoslovak New Wave. His 1967 film The Fireman's Ball, on the surface a naturalistic representation of an ill-fated social event in a provincial town, was seen by both movie scholars and authorities in Czechoslovakia as a biting satire on Eastern European Communism, resulting in it being banned for many years in Forman's home country.

Since Forman left Czechoslovakia, two of his films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, have acquired particular renown, both gaining him an Academy Award for Best Director. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was the second to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Leading Role, Actress in Leading Role, Director, and Screenplay) following It Happened One Night in 1934, an accomplishment not repeated until 1991 by The Silence of the Lambs. Forman was also nominated for a Best Director Oscar for The People vs. Larry Flynt. He has also won Golden Globe, Cannes, Berlinale, BAFTA, Cesar, David di Donatello, European Film Academy, and Czech Lion awards.[1]

Personal life

Actress Hana Brejchová was Forman's 18-year-old former sister-in-law at the time she was given her first film role in his international success Loves of a Blonde, which earned her 3rd place in the Best Actress category at the Venice Film Festival.[2]

Forman was born in Čáslav, Czechoslovakia (present-day Czech Republic), the son of Anna (née Švábová), who ran a summer hotel. When young, he believed his biological father to be Rudolf Forman, a professor.[3] Both Anna and Rudolf Forman were Protestants. During the Nazi occupation, a member of the anti-Nazi Underground named Rudolf Forman as a member of the Underground while being interrogated by the Gestapo.[4] Rudolf was arrested for distributing banned books and died in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp in 1944.[5] Forman's mother died in Auschwitz in 1943.[6] Forman has stated that he did not fully understand what had happened to them until he saw footage of the concentration camps when he was 16.[4]

Forman lived with relatives during World War II[6] and later discovered that his biological father was in fact a Jewish architect, Otto Kohn, a survivor of the Holocaust.[7] He has a brother, Pavel Forman, 12 years older, a Czech painter who, after the 1968 invasion, emigrated to Australia. In his youth, he wanted to become a theatrical producer, bypassing theater. Through his biological father, he is a half-brother of mathematician Joseph J. Kohn.

After the war, Forman attended the elite King George boarding school in the spa town Poděbrady, where his fellow students included Václav Havel, the Mašín brothers and future film-makers Ivan Passer and Jerzy Skolimowski.[8] He later studied screenwriting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He was assistant of Alfred Radok, creator of Laterna Magika. During the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in summer 1968, he left Europe for the United States.

Forman's first wife was Czech movie star Jana Brejchová. They met during the making of the movie Štěňata (1957). They divorced in 1962. Forman has twin sons with his second wife, Czech actress Věra Křesadlová-Formanová. They separated in 1969. Both sons, Petr Forman and Matěj Forman, born 1964, are involved in the theatre. Then Forman married Martina Zbořilová on November 28, 1999. They also have twin sons, Jim and Andy (born 1999, named for comics Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman), and reside in Connecticut, USA.

In 2006, he received the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award presented by the Prague Society for International Cooperation.

He is professor emeritus of film at Columbia University.[9]

The asteroid 11333 Forman was named after Forman.

In 2009 a documentary film about Forman directed by Miloš Šmídmajer was produced – Miloš Forman: Co te nezabije....

Forman has written poems and published an autobiography called Turnaround.


Along with future favorite cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček and longtime schoolfriend Ivan Passer, Forman filmed the silent documentary Semafor about Semafor theater. Forman's first important production was the documentary Audition whose subject was competing singers. He directed several Czech comedies in Czechoslovakia. However, during the Prague Spring and the ensuing 1968 invasion, he was in Paris negotiating the production of his first American film. His employer, a Czech studio, fired him, claiming that he had been out of the country illegally. He moved to New York, where he later became a professor of film at Columbia University and co-chair (with his former teacher František Daniel) of Columbia's film department. One of his protégés was future director James Mangold, whom Forman had advised about scriptwriting.

In 1977, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In the mid 1980s, Forman frequented parlor gatherings with Claudia and Arthur Mokarow,[10] two confidantes of world chess champion, Bobby Fischer.[11] Fischer, Forman, and actor Peter Falk[12] would gather at the Mokarow estate in Pasadena, California. During one discussion, Forman learned about the publication Fischer authored, I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse,[13] which was a ranting recount of his time spent in the Pasadena Jailhouse. Fisher had been arrested for vagrancy while wandering the streets of Pasadena with no visible means of support.[14] Forman was told by Claudia Mokarow that a script was being written about the incident. Forman was infatuated by the concept and discussions evolved to make the film, with Forman serving as its director and co-producing with the Mokarows. As the project developed, Fischer discovered that Forman was Jewish and that the scriptwriter, John Schulte, was Catholic. Fischer terminated the project immediately.[15][16]

In 1985 Forman headed the Cannes film festival and in 2000 did the same for the Venice festival. He presided over a ceremony of Caesar in 1988.

In 1997, he received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Forman performed alongside actor Edward Norton in Norton's directorial debut, Keeping the Faith (2000), as the wise friend to Norton's conflicted priest.

In April 2007 the jazz opera Dobře placená procházka premiered at the Prague National Theatre, directed by Forman's son, Petr Forman.

Forman received an honorary degree in 2009 from Emerson College in Boston, USA.[17]

He regularly collaborated with cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček.


Loves of a Blonde

Loves of a Blonde is one of the best–known movies of Czechoslovak New Wave and has won awards at the Venice and Locarno film festivals. It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967.[18]

The Fireman's Ball

A 1967 Czechoslovak-Italian co-production, this was Forman's first color film. It is one of the best–known movies of Czechoslovak New Wave. On the face of it a naturalistic representation of an ill-fated social event in a provincial town, the film has been seen by both movie scholars and the then-authorities in Czechoslovakia as a biting satire on East European Communism, which resulted in it being banned for many years in Forman's home country.

It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.[19]

Taking Off

The first movie Forman made in the United States, Taking Off won the Grand Prix at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. The film starred Lynn Carlin and Buck Henry, and also featured Linnea Heacock as Jeannie.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

In spite of initial difficulties, he started directing in the United States, and achieved success in 1975 with the adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. The film won Oscars in the five most important categories: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, one of only three films in history to do so, along with It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs, and firmly established Forman's reputation.


The success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest allowed Forman to direct the long-planned film Hair (a rock musical) in 1979, based on the Broadway musical by James Rado, Gerome Ragni, and Galt MacDermot. The film starred Treat Williams, John Savage and Beverly D'Angelo.


Forman's next important achievement was the adaption of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus in 1984—retelling the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The internationally acclaimed film starred Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge and F. Murray Abraham. The movie won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Abraham).


His adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, it had its premiere on November 17, 1989. Another film adaptation by Stephen Frears had been released the previous year and received much acclaim. The film starred Colin Firth, Meg Tilly and Annette Bening.

The People vs. Larry Flynt

The 1996 biographical film of pornographic publisher Larry Flynt brought Forman another Oscar nomination.[1] The film starred Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love and Edward Norton.

Man on the Moon

The biography of famous actor and avant-garde comic Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey, who won a Golden Globe for his performance) premiered on December 22, 1999. The film also starred Danny DeVito, Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti.

Goya's Ghosts

This free biography of Spanish painter Francisco Goya (American-Spanish co-production) premiered on November 8, 2006. The film starred Natalie Portman, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgård and Randy Quaid.

Influence on the Czech language

Forman's early films are popular among Czechs. Many situations and phrases from his movies have passed into common use. For example, the Czech term zhasnout (to switch lights off) from The Fireman's Ball, associated with petty theft in the film, has been used to describe the large-scale asset stripping that occurred in the country during the 1990s.


Year Film Oscar nominations Oscar wins Director Writer Actor Role
1954 Stříbrný vítr (Silver wind) Yes
1955 Nechte to na mně (Leave it to me) Yes
1958 Štěňata (Puppies) Yes
1960 Laterna magika II Yes
1963 Kdyby ty muziky nebyly Yes
Konkurs (Audition) Yes
1964 Black Peter (Černý Petr) Yes Yes
Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky) 1 Yes Yes
1966 Dobře placená procházka (A well paid walk) Yes
1967 The Firemen's Ball (Hoří, má panenko) 1 Yes Yes
1971 Taking Off Yes Yes
I Miss Sonia Henie (Short Film) Yes
1973 Visions of Eight Yes
1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 9 5 Yes
1979 Hair Yes
1981 Ragtime 8 Yes
1984 Amadeus 11 8 Yes
1986 Heartburn Yes Dmitri
1989 Valmont 1 Yes Yes
New Year's Day Yes Lazlo
1996 The People vs. Larry Flynt 2 Yes
1999 Man on the Moon Yes
2000 Keeping the Faith Yes Father Havel
2006 Goya's Ghosts Yes Yes
2008 Chelsea on the Rocks Yes
2009 Peklo s princeznou (Hell with a Princess) Yes
2011 The Ghost of Munich (unfinished) Yes Yes
The Beloved (Les Bien-aimés) Yes Jaromil

Awards, nominations and honours

Academy Awards

Golden Globe




César Award

David di Donatello

European Film Academy

The state prize of Klement Gottwald

Czech Lion

List of Greatest Czechs

Doctor of Humane Letters


  1. 1 2 List of Milos Forman nominations. (January 29, 2010). Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
  2. "Hana Brejchová". Česko-Slovenská filmová databáze. POMO Media Group. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  3. Milos Forman Biography (1932–). Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
  4. 1 2 Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. H. W. Wilson Company. 1988. 349–356.
  5. See entry Rudolf Forman in the memorial book of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp
  6. 1 2 Tugend, Tom. (July 19, 2007) Milos Forman directs Natalie Portman in ‘Goya’s Ghosts’—film melds art tour and history | Arts. Jewish Journal. Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
  7. Turnaround Review – Milos Forman – Salem on Literature. Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
  8. I Had a Wild Life. The Guardian. Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
  9. Milos Forman page at Columbia University. Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
  17. "News Articles in 2009". Emerson College.
  18. "The 39th Academy Awards (1967) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  19. "The 41st Academy Awards (1969) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  20. "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  21. "University Commencement, Morningside Campus".

External links

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