In 1978, esteemed director Milos Forman and his Screenwriting mentor Frank Daniel were appointed co-chairs of the Film Program. Under their leadership, the program flourished and became the world-renowned institution of film education that it is today. In many ways, Forman was the "creative founder" of Columbia Film, having shaped and refined its commitment to narrative filmmaking anchored in strong screenplays. He gave it a character as distinct as his own—original, passionate, intelligent, and international.
Among the most respected film directors of his generation, Forman is best known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984), which both received the Academy Award for Best Picture and for Best Director. The two films won a total of 13 Oscars. Cuckoo’s Nest became only the second in film history to sweep the five major Oscar categories. He also directed Hair (1979), Ragtime (1981), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Man on the Moon (1999). Eight different actors in his films gave Oscar-nominated performances and he himself received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Motion Picture Direction from the Directors Guild of America in 2013. Forman grew up in a small town near Prague, Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. After his parents died in Nazi concentration camps, he was raised by his uncles and family friends. He studied filmmaking and screenwriting in Prague in the 1950s, and worked as a writer and assistant director through the 1960s. His early films—such as Loves of a Blonde (1965)—were hailed as part of the Czech New Wave. When his film The Firemen’s Ball (1967) was banned in Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion of 1968, Forman immigrated to the United States and later became a citizen. Forman joined the faculty at Columbia’s School of the Arts in 1978 and served as chair or co-chair of its Film Program until 1994. Since 1996, he served as professor emeritus, and received Columbia's Honorary "Doctor of Humane Letters" degree in 2015.