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Czech-born US film director Miloš Forman turns 85

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Prague, Feb 16 (CTK) – Renowned Czech-born film director Milos Forman, living in the United States, who has won two Oscars and three Golden Globe awards, will turn 85 on Saturday.

The public Czech Television (CT) and cinemas present his films as well as documentaries on his life and career. The Film Archive’s Ponrepo cinemas in Prague has offered a one-month retrospective of his films that culminates these days. Czech centres abroad have prepared programmes on Forman’s anniversary, including screenings, lectures and debates.

However, Forman will not travel to the Czech Republic for health reasons and because of his notorious aversion to flying.

He has visited his homeland many times since the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. Last time, he was in Prague six years ago when he planted two oaks trees in the Troja botanical garden, along with his friend and long-term collaborator, director of photography Miroslav Ondricek (1934-2015).

Forman did not attend the premiere of the restored copy of his film The Fireman’s Ball at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, west Bohemia, in 2012 either. “He does not feel like travelling, he is limited by his health,” festival director Jiri Bartoska said then.

In February 2013, Forman received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in Los Angeles. However, he did not attend the ceremony over illness, AP reported.

Forman worked in Prague last time in early 2007 when he was rehearsing Czech jazz opera Dobre placena prochazka (A Well Paid Walk) by Jiri Suchy and Jiri Slitr on the stage of the National Theatre, in cooperation with his sons Petr and Matej. This was his director’s “opera debut.”

During his stay in Prague then, Forman also attended the Czech premiere of his so far last film, Goya’s Ghosts (2006).

Four years ago, a book interview with Forman by Czech director Bohdan Slama was published and last year, the Barrandov Film Studio issued a book about Forman with some 1000 photographs. The Czech Film and Television Association (Fites) awarded him with the Vladislav Vancura Prize for his contribution to Czech and world cinematography in January 2015.

Forman also appeared in one of the witty jingles of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. In the spot, shot in his house in Connecticut Forman plays with his wife Martina who brings him pills that he crashes with the base of the festival’s Crystal Globe award he received in 2007, and swallows them.

The last film that Forman prepared was Ghost of Munich, which touched upon the Munich Agreement from 1938, under which Czechoslovakia had to cede its border regions to Nazi Germany. The premiere was scheduled for 2010, but the project was scrapped due to the lack of funding. Forman worked on the script along with Jean-Claude Carriere and playwright and first post-communist Czech president Vaclav Havel (1936-2011).

“The film on the Munich dictate might be unpleasant for Germans, French and Britons. Some people are thinking that they could lose out on it. Several films of mine, for which everything was prepared, collapsed like that. This is part of the show business,” Forman commented on the affair then.

Forman was born on February 18, 1932, in Caslav, central Bohemia. Both of his parents died in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII.

After the war, Forman attended a boarding school for wartime orphans and a grammar school in Podebrady, central Bohemia. Among his schoolmates were Havel and later film-maker Ivan Passer who wrote scripts for Forman’s Czech films. They both were leading personalities of the Czech New Film Wave of the 1960s.

Forman studied script-writing at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU).

In 1963, he made his film debut – Konkurs (Competition), which combines the elements of a documentary with a feature film. In the same year, he directed the grotesque comedy Cerny Petr (Black Peter) about troubles of a teenage apprentice in a little town in which as well as his following Czech films, Forman successfully used non-professional actors in leading roles.

Forman’s other films Lasky jedne plavovlasky (The Loves of a Blonde, 1965) and Hori, ma panenko (The Fireman’s Ball, 1967) were nominated for Oscar in the category of non-English speaking film.

Afterwards, Forman left for the USA, and in 1975 he became U.S. citizen.

Forman’s first U.S. movie, Taking Off (1971) scored success at the festival in Cannes, but it was a debacle in the USA.

However, Forman did not give up and four years later he won Oscar with his second film shot in the USA, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), based on Ken Kesey’s novel. It was awarded Oscar in all five major categories, along with the best director, for the best film, the best script and for the best actor and actress in a leading role.

In 1984, Forman won his second Oscar for Amadeus, based on Peter Shaffer’s play on the relationship between composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri symbolising the fight between brilliance and mediocrity. Most scenes of the film were shot in Forman’s homeland, the communist Czechoslovakia, and a number of Czechs also worked in the film crew.

Among his American projects from the 1970s is also the film version of the musical Hair (1979), inspired by the hippie movement and protests against the Vietnam War, and Valmont (1989), an adaptation of the 18th century French “novel of manners” Dangerous Liaisons.

The most controversial of his films is probably The People versus Larry Flynt (1996), telling the story of a U.S. porn king and editor of the Hustler magazine. The film screening was accompanied by protests and it was sharply criticised by the church and feminist circles in America. The film won the Golden Globe award and the Golden Bear at the Berlinale international film festival.

Forman’s Man on the Moon (1999), a film biography of American comedian Andy Kaufman, was also awarded in Berlin.

Forman was married three times. In 1951 he married young Czech actress Jana Brejchova, but they divorced five years later. His second wife was actress and singer Vera Kresadlova whom he met in the 1960s. They have twin sons, Petr and Matej, 52.

Forman has other twin sons, Jim and Andy, born in 1999, with his current wife Martina. They live at their farm in Connecticut.

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