Kirk Douglas was in Prague on a Goodwill Mission and was shown Forman’s film Loves of a Blonde. Douglas asked if he could send Forman a book (Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and if he would be interested in making a movie in America. Forman said yes but never received the book because it was confiscated by the communist censors. Ten years later, Kirk’s son Michael Douglas sent the book to Forman when he was living in the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Forman read the book and agreed to direct the film, which swept five of the top Oscars beating out director Steven Spielberg’s Jaws for best picture. Forman also won his first Oscar for Best Director, over nominees such as Federico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, and Robert Altman. Made on a $4.4 million dollar budget, the film has gone on to gross more than $320 million worldwide. Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando both passed on the lead role which garnered Jack Nicholson an Oscar for Best Actor. The success of the film catapulted Forman’s career, and opened a number of doors for him, giving him more freedom to make the films he wanted to make.
Photo courtesy of The Saul Zaentz Company