HOLLYWOOD—Acadamy Award winning director Miloš Forman, whose 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt immortalized the life of the titular Hustler founder and free speech activist, died Friday at the age of 86.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Forman died in Danbury Hospital near his home in Warren, Connecticut following a short illness. News of his death was first broken by his wife, Martina, to Czech news agency CTK (Forman was born in Czechoslovakia). She told the agency that "his departure was calm, and he was surrounded the whole time by his family and his closest friends."
Forman won two Best Director Oscars, for 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and 1984's Amadeus, both of which also took Best Picture. Flynt earned him his third and final Best Director nomination, as well as garnering Woody Harrelson a nod for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Flynt. In keeping with Forman's career-long motif of glorifying provocative figures through a satirical lens, the film remains the most celebrated cinematic portrait of an adult industry personality ever made.
Larry Flynt himself tweeted Saturday morning, "Film lost one of its great true visionaries yesterday — Milos Forman. 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. I will miss his presence on this earth."
Screenwriter Larry Karaszewski, who co-wrote The People vs. Larry Flynt with Scott Alexander (the two collaborated with Forman again on 1999's Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon), offered tribute Saturday on Twitter as well, writing, "Milos Forman was our friend and our teacher. He was a master filmmaker — no one better at capturing small unrepeatable moments of human behavior. We made two movies together and every day spent with him was a unique adventure. Milos loved life. I will miss his laughter."
Forman was regarded as a fierce advocate of free expression in his own right, by way of both his choice of subjects and his public championing efforts. Flynt co-star Edward Norton commented to The Hollywood Reporter that Forman was "one of my true artistic heroes, not just because he was a great film director but because of his capacity to sustain an exuberant belief that individual human spirit can triumph over institutions of oppression and his conviction that art can and must play a role in that fight for the health of a society."
Thomas Schlamme, president of the Director's Guild of America, which bestowed Forman its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, said in a statement, "Miloš was truly one of ours. A filmmaker, artist, and champion of artists’ rights. His contribution to the craft of directing has been an undeniable source of inspiration for generations of filmmakers. His directorial vision deftly brought together provocative subject matter, stellar performances and haunting images to tell the stories of the universal struggle for free expression and self-determination that informed so much of his work and his life. A member of the DGA’s National Board and a recipient of the DGA’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, Miloš actively championed artist’s rights throughout his career, speaking multiple times before Congress and world audiences about the importance of creative rights and artists’ protections against the violation of those rights. He stood up on behalf of his beloved fellow filmmakers time and again, and he believed with all his heart that creativity and artistic freedom could make a difference in the world. Now it’s up to us to prove him right. We will miss him."
Photo of Miloš Forman taken from Larry Karaszewski's Twitter.