Oscar-winning Cuckoo’s Nest director Milos Forman, 86

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DIRECTOR Milos Forman poses after being presented with the Giraldillo award for his life-long career achievements at Sevilla Festival Film Spain on Nov. 6, 2004. — AFP

OSCAR-WINNING Czech-born film director Milos Forman, celebrated for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, has died aged 86, his agents told AFP on Saturday.

“I heard from (Forman’s wife) Martina Forman very early this morning letting me know Milos passed away at Danbury Hospital near his home in Warren, Connecticut,” his friend and agent Dennis Aspland said. “I can confirm the news,” added the director’s Czech agent Radka Kadlecova, as Forman’s official Facebook page displayed a black square in the place of his profile picture, complete with the dates of birth and death.

The Czech news agency CTK quoted Martina Forman as saying her husband died suddenly on Friday after a short illness.

“He passed away quietly, surrounded by his family and his closest people,” she said.

In an obituary on Twitter, Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas labelled the cigar-smoking director a “genius of cinematography.”

“Milos Forman has left us. Genius of cinematography and master in the portrayal of the human condition. RIP,” the Desperado star said.

Jim Carrey, who played comedian Andy Kaufman in Forman’s Man on the Moon (1999) — a film that inspired Forman to name his twins James and Andrew — hailed Forman as “a force” and a lovely man. “I’m glad we got to play together. It was a monumental experience,” he tweeted.

Born in the town of Caslav east of Prague on Feb. 18, 1932, Forman lost both parents in Nazi concentration camps.

In the 1960s, he joined the New Wave of filmmakers standing up to the Communist regime in what was then Czechoslovakia, making himself famous with Black Peter, Loves of a Blonde, and The Firemen’s Ball.

Shortly before the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia, which put an end to a liberal period known as the Prague Spring, Forman moved to the United States via France.

His career overseas started with Taking Off in 1971, followed by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest four years later, which brought him his first “best director” Oscar.

An American citizen since 1977, the father-of-four returned to still-Communist Prague in 1983 to film Amadeus, which earned him a second Oscar for best director and won eight out of 11 nominations.

“Milos Forman was… a master filmmaker — no one better at capturing small unrepeatable moments of human behavior,” tweeted Forman’s screenwriter Larry Karaszewski.

“We made two movies together and every day spent with him was a unique adventure,” said Karaszewski, who wrote the screenplays for Forman’s The People vs Larry Flynt (1996) and Man on the Moon together with Scott Alexander.

“Milos loved life. I will miss his laughter,” he added.

Larry Flynt, the publisher of sexually graphic magazines, said he would miss Forman’s “presence on this Earth.”

“I will always be grateful to him for telling my story in The People vs Larry Flynt. He was a remarkable man with extraordinary talent,” Flynt tweeted.

“He was my dad’s best friend and we both looked up to him,” Czech director David Ondricek, the son of Forman’s cameraman Miroslav Ondricek, told the website of the Czech broadsheet daily DNES.

“He had a beautiful character and fantastic energy. People wanted to be near him, he was a fabulous story-teller and a kind man,” Ondricek added.

Cuckoo’s Nest star Danny DeVito offered an obituary in a blend of Czech and English.

“Milos the magnificent! cest k jeho pamatce (honor to his memory) light a good cigar, raise a drink, and shout ‘HOVNO HOVNO HOVNO! (SHIT SHIT SHIT!)’,” he tweeted.

Forman’s other films include Hair (1979), Ragtime (1981), Valmont (1989), and Goya’s Ghosts (2006).

Valmont star Meg Tilly also tweeted a tribute to Forman. “RIP#MilosForman. Working with you in Prague and France were highlights of my acting life. I feel so blessed to have been gifted with those experiences,” she said. — AFP