Forman, a Czech immigrant who came to the United States in the late 1960s, was as fearless and rebellious in his life as he was in his work. He lost both parents in Auschwitz and spent much of his formative years in a boarding school for war orphans. He later fled Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) during the 1968 Communist invasion.
Despite leaving his homeland to pursue artistic freedom, Forman always maintained a deep love for the Czech Republic and its citizens have continued to look upon him as a national hero. The director went to great lengths to shoot Amadeus in the city of Prague, including being grated air-tight documentation that would ensure his safety to be in the country as an ex-pat. The Czech Republic continues to mourn the loss of a film pioneer.
In a touching remembrance published by Rolling Stone, F. Murray Abraham, who won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Antonio Salieri in Amadeus, remembers the director being "tough as nails" on the set.
Milos Forman was as tough as nails, but he had a nose for the truth. It's what separates a really great director from just a mediocre director—it's someone who is really trying to find in you the best thing that you have to offer. And there aren't many like that.
Forman won Oscars in Directing for both Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, both films which by no coincidence feature non-conformist, subversive leads, mirroring the filmmaker's own outlook on the world. Forman said himself, "I lived long enough in a society where freedom of speech was nonexistent, and I know what kind of misery that creates—starting with the fact that life becomes very boring for people who just try to survive, and are quiet, and try not to buck the system. And, of course, it can be devastating for people who try to speak against it."
R.I.P. Milos Forman.