Czech-born director Milos Forman, who won best directing Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus,” has died. He was 86.

Milos Forman Dead

Forman died Friday in the U.S. after a brief illness, his wife, Martina, told the Czech news agency CTK. She said that “his departure was calm, and he was surrounded the whole time by his family and his closest friends.”

Having made just one American film at the time, the ironic comedy “Taking Off” (1971), which won critical acclaim but failed to connect with audiences, Forman seemed an unlikely choice to direct the adaptation of Ken Kesey’s countercultural novel “Cuckoo’s Nest.” But he brought a balance and objectivity to the film, which could easily have descended into histrionics. The critically lauded and immensely popular film starring the fast-rising Jack Nicholson struck a nerve in 1975, and on Academy Awards night it became the first film since 1934’s “It Happened One Night” to sweep the top five Oscar prizes: best picture, director, actress, actor and screenplay (adapted).

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To shoot “Amadeus,” Forman returned to his native Czechoslovakia in 1983 and used little-known theater actors to play Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Thomas Hulce) and his rival Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), Forman created a compelling and cogent adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s award-winning stage play — helped in great measure by the magnificent Mozartian score. Again, Forman ruled the Oscars, taking another director trophy as the film also drew awards for picture, actor (Abraham), and screenplay, winning eight awards in all. The film was also his most financially successful after “Cuckoo’s Nest.”