Czech-born filmmaker Milos Forman is an Academy Award-winning director, but his life story, as Forman tells Terry Gross, is no less dramatic than his cinematic success.
Born in 1932 in a small town near Prague, Forman experienced war at a young age, when Nazi armies marched on his country. Though Forman continued to live in Czechoslovakia under Gestapo rule, his Jewish father and Protestant mother were sent to Auschwitz, where they perished.
After the war, Czechoslovakia came under communist rule, and Forman attended the Prague Film Institute. He began his film-making career during the "new wave of Czech cinema" that coincided with a liberalization of the communist regime.
After Warsaw Pact tanks invaded the increasingly liberal Soviet satellite in 1968, Forman took refuge in the U.S. year later. By then he was an experienced director. His second American film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, earned him widespread fame and an Oscar for best director. Forman went on to win an Academy Awards for directing Amadeus, a loose biography of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and received an Oscar nomination for The People vs. Larry Flint.
In recent years, Forman has directed films in Germany and Spain. His latest film, Goya's Ghosts, will be released on DVD, February 26. Currently, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is running a two-week retrospective of Forman's films.