When taking a look at Milos Forman’s filmography, it becomes evident that the filmmaker had made it his goal from the beginning not to attach his name onto anything that wasn’t an absolute work of genius. From as early as Black Peter and Loves of a Blonde, all the way to Amadeus and Goya’s Ghosts, there has been no compromise. The humour of Man on the Moon, insanity of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, psychedelia of Hair and freedom of The People vs. Larry Flynt place Forman’s list of works among the most groundbreaking resumes to be found in the history of film. So it makes sense to discover that even the projects he chose to pass on or for whatever reason was forced to give up on, are still of an incredible standard – so what could be the reasons behind their unfeasibility and decisive dead end?
Read at Unsung Films: Man on the Moon.
In 1958, Milos Forman and Josef Skvorecky wrote The Band Won It – a screenplay adapting the latter’s short story about a student jazz band at the time of the Nazi Occupation in Czechoslovakia. As expected, Barrandov Film Studios asked for a number of changes and rewrites to be made in order for the unmistakable anti-war atmosphere of the film to be toned down. After a few different drafts, the entire project was shot down from “above”.
In 1991, Milos Forman and Adam Davidson wrote Hell Camp, a script about a young American who is sent to Japan on business and becomes involved in the world of sumo wrestling after he meets an overweight boy whose dream is to be a wrestler in Tokyo. The film was funded by Tristar and production was taken on by Michael Hausman. However, four days before shooting was scheduled to start, the Japanese Sumo Association strongly objected that the project take shape, and did not allow the filmmakers to cooperate with the wrestlers. The film was cancelled after a year and a half of planning and just before filming began.
Embers was written by Milos Forman and Jean-Claude Carrière and it was based on a novel by Sándor Márai. Start of shooting was set for the 8th of October 2003 in the Czech Republic, and Michael Hausman was once again executive producer, alongside Italian producers Robert and Michael Haggiag. Embers follows two men who become close in military school but then lose touch when one goes on to marry the girl they both fell in love with. 41 years later, they meet again and engage in long discussions regarding love, life and jealousy before they reconcile once more. Forman cast Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Winona Ryder in the leads, but after an unsolvable argument between Connery and producer Michael Haggiag, the actor decided to remove himself from the project. The filmmaker saw no reason in carrying on with the film without his ideal lead on board and instead chose to cancel it altogether only days again before shooting was meant to begin.
In 2010, Ghost of Munich – a screenplay by Milos Forman, Vaclav Havel and Jean-Claude Carrière — was again prevented from being realized by mysterious powers. Based on the novel by Georges-Marc Benamou, the story follows a young American journalist who in 1968 interviews Edouard Daladier, the former French Prime Minister, trying to shed light onto the events which led to the Munich Pact in 1938. This devastating historical event is explored through psychological portraits and accounts of people who took part in a disgraceful political moment ultimately leading to Hitler’s European invasion and millions of people losing their lives in horrible ways. The project did not achieve funding as both Pathé and Georges-Marc Benamou were unable to find the money to effectively support the film. As Milos Forman has admitted, “theoretically, the film about the Munich Pact could have been unpleasant for the Germans, the French and the English, so I guess someone was afraid of a significant financial loss.”
Read at Unsung Films: Amadeus.
Milos Forman’s four major unrealized screen projects have something in common – and that is not just between them, but also with those of his projects that have been realized. It’s their unwillingness to compromise, their determination to shed light on unconventional and often tabooed stories, their love for freedom of speech and unbending integrity when it comes to portraying subjects that are in some way significant. Even those films that have now reached us and we can freely enjoy, had to face a number of obstacles and objections along the way. The People vs. Larry Flynt brought on anti-porn feminism rage; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was fought hard in court by the novelist himself, Ken Kesey; and Hair was criticized for presenting hippies more like weirdos than conscious pacifists. Our good luck lies mainly in the fact that in these cases the problems arose after the end result was presented to us on screen. Now, there’s very little they can do.
Read more on Milos Forman’s Unrealized Projects at Milos Forman’s official website