Forman was born Tomas Jan, one of three sons, in Cáslav, now in the Czech Republic. When he was nine his parents were arrested by the Gestapo, and both soon died in concentration camps. The young orphan was then raised by relatives and family friends. He also spent some time in a camp for war orphans, where he first came into contact with the theater and films. He studied at the University of Prague and then the Prague Film School.
He was an influential leader of the Czech New Wave cinema, but fled to the US after the Soviet invasion of his country in 1968, where he has continued his distinguished career as a director. His most famous American films are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), which won five Oscars, and Amadeus (1984), which won two Oscars. Other films include Old Man Automobile (screenwriter, 1956), the autobiographical Cerný Petr (1964), Lásky Jedné Plavovlásky (1965), Horí Má Panenko (1967), Taking Off (1971), Hair (1979), Ragtime (1981), Valmont (1989), and The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). He received the 4th Annual John Huston Award from the Artists Rights Foundation in 1997.
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