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Acclaimed Movie Director Milos Forman Dies At 86

NOEL KING, HOST:

Filmmaker Milos Forman died on Saturday at the age of 86. He was the director of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus," among others. He emigrated from Eastern Europe at the height of the Cold War. And as critic Bob Mondello remembers, Forman had a distinctive sensibility.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Milos Forman liked oddballs and eccentrics, and he loathed tyrants and red tape. Having grown up in what was then communist Czechoslovakia, he knew a little something about those things. His comedy about small-town bureaucracy, "The Firemen's Ball," offended the regime there. And when he fled to Hollywood a few years later, his big break also came with a film that had an anti-authority bent, "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest," set in an asylum run by soft-spoken but monstrous Nurse Ratched.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST")

JACK NICHOLSON: (As R.P. McMurphy) Will you please turn the television set on?

LOUISE FLETCHER: (As Nurse Ratched) Mr. McMurphy, the meeting was adjourned, and the vote was closed.

NICHOLSON: (As R.P. McMurphy) But the vote was 10-8. The chief - he's got his hand up. Look.

FLETCHER: (As Nurse Ratched) No, Mr. McMurphy. When the meeting was adjourned, the vote was 9-9.

MONDELLO: Forman told friends that he saw his own situation as a Czech citizen in the plot of "Cuckoo's Nest," that the Communist Party had been his Nurse Ratched, telling him what he could and couldn't do or say. "Cuckoo's Nest" won the big five Oscars - best picture, director, actor, actress and screenplay - one of only three films in history to do that. Forman's later films also tended to center on eccentrics and power struggles. His adaptation of the theatrical Mozart biography, "Amadeus," pitted a musical genius who had no taste or sophistication against Salieri, a man of taste and sophistication...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AMADEUS")

F MURRAY ABRAHAM: (As Salieri) It was actually beyond belief.

MONDELLO: ...Who could only appreciate genius.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AMADEUS")

ABRAHAM: (As Salieri) These were first and only drafts of music. But they showed no corrections of any kind. Not one.

MONDELLO: "Amadeus" won eight Oscars, including best picture and best director. And it proved to be the very peak of his career, though Forman would make other films about outcasts battling power structures - "The People Vs. Larry Flynt," the hippie musical "Hair" and "Man On The Moon," a nuanced portrait of comic Andy Kaufman - smaller box office, perhaps, but for Milos Forman, always big ideas. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERFORMANCE OF MOZART'S "REQUIEM (K. 626 INTROITUS)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 16, 2018 at 12:00 AM EDT
In an earlier version of this report, we said Amadeus was filmed in a newly independent Czech Republic. In fact, when the movie was released in 1984, Czechoslovakia was still one nation. It split into the Czech and Slovak republics in 1993.