Prague, Czech Republic – Czech-born screenwriter, director and filmmaker Ivan Passer passed away last week at the age of 86 in Reno, Nevada.
The son of Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust, Ivan Passer was born in Prague in 1933 and attended secondary school with other future prominent Czech public figures such as Milos Forman and Vaclav Havel. After having studied at the renowned FAMU cinema school in Prague, Passer rose to prominence working as a screenwriter on Forman’s early Czech movies, including The Firemen’s Ball and The Loves of a Blonde.
In 1965, he debuted with his first feature film, Intimate Lighting, one year before winning the Grand Prix at the Locarno festival for his short movie A Boring Afternoon.
One of the most influential figures of the Czech New Wave in the 1960s, along with Milos Forman, Vera Chytilova or Jan Nemec, Passer fled, with long-time friend Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia in 1969 after the Soviet-led invasion of Warsaw Pact troops and the crushing of the Prague Spring.
Both men later became two of the most prominent voices of Czech cinema in Hollywood. Some of Passer’s famous U.S. productions include Born to Win (1971), starring Robert de Niro, Law and Disorder (1974), Silver Bears (1978), Cutter’s Way (1981), as well as the 1992 HBO movie Stalin, starring Robert Duvall in the role of the Soviet dictator.
Passer received a Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema at the 2008 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Czech Lion Award for Artistic Achievement the previous year.
Main photo credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times