INT: So when did you decide to emigrate - was it personal decision, was it political decision?
MF: It was a personal decision out of sort of... it was cowardliness, you know, I realized that if I'll stay, I'll either have to conform and really, you know... can I say it on television, you know?... shit right into my mouth, you know, and... if I want to work. Or I have to quit show business, movie making, find some, you know, little job somewhere - I don't know what. Or to try to be, you know, faithful to what I feel and what I think, and then I would probably end up in prison. And I just didn't have guts for any three of it, so I left.
INT: Would you describe yourself as a dissident?
MF: Would I describe what?
INT: Yourself as a dissident...?
MF: No, because the fact that after I left, I realized, you know, either I will be a professional emigrant, always dreaming of going back and working towards the goal, and it might never happen and I will die as a professional emigrant; or I just cut myself off my past, professionally and personally, and try to integrate into Hollywood, you know, and that's what I decided. So I didn't do anything which... you know, for which I should call myself dissident.
INT: What did you think about those who were a dissident?
MF: I feel enormous respect for those who either sacrifi(c)ed their ambition and careers and kept silent, or even more, who didn't stop expressing their philosophy, their feelings, their opinions, and many of them ended up in jail. I feel enormous respect for them.
INT: And now, when we are looking back, are you happy that America won Cold War?
MF: Of course - what a silly question. Because at least these people are now fighting normal evils, and not devious evils like any totalitarian regime, anybody who seizes the control. You know, whatever... People must not think that all bad in man which is unleashed, the moment you impose censorship disappears from man. No, it's all there and you can see it, and you can really abolish censorship overnight, but the self-censorship, it is still working there; you can see that, and it is working for me even, you know.
INT: What did you consider as the most dangerous moment during the years of Cold War?
MF: Mm... Dangerous for what?
INT: Dangerous for...
MF: Physically, mentally?
MF: The most dangerous is that it's humiliating you. The communism humiliates your pride, because it's forcing you voluntarily to twist your spine. And physically - no, physically it's... of course, unless you are tortured or killed or put in prison, I wasn't afraid that there will be a war. It was so funny, because when Gorbachev came to power he organized some kind of a symposium in Moscow, and they invited me too, you know. There was a lot of people from all over the world, you know. And Soviet director Kulidzhanov made an interview with me - and he knew me, he knew me from Prague when I was still there - for Russian television, and he asked me the question, "What do you..." (Laughs) He said, "What do you, comrade Forman..." and I was already an American citizen, you know... "What do you, comrade Forman, consider the most important event of the 20th century?" And I told him: the explosion of atomic bomb. "What do you mean, comrade Forman?" "Well, look, you know, half of the century... we're over half of the century, and this is, you know, two world wars already. Now we are practically at the end of the..."
MF: So... this was already after Gorbachev was in power and he invited me to Moscow for some symposium. You know, a lot of... well, some were real intellectuals. And there was this (Laughs) left Kulidzhanov - he was a Soviet director - and suddenly... he was, you know, on the coat-tails of Gorbachev, you know, the new communism arriving. And he was doing a television interview with me for Soviet Television, and the first question was, "Well..." It's funny, because I was already American citizen, and he called me "Comrade Forman, what do you consider the most important event of the 20th century?" I knew immediately what he wanted to hear: you know, the October Revolution, of course. So I said, "I think it was the explosion of the atomic bomb." "W-w-why do you say that?" I said, "Well, look, in the first half of this century you had two world wars. How many, many, many millions of people died. And then in 1945, you know, in the middle of the century, the bomb explodes. Today we are at the end of the century, and there was no third world war. Why do you think is that? Well, because your, American and other generals suddenly realized that in case of the atomic war, they are in the same danger as the private in the trenches. It was very easy before to sit in very, you know, warm war rooms, you know, and send three million soldiers to die and a million soldiers to die there. But today they push the button and the other side pushes the button - he is in the same danger." And they didn't (Laughs) put it on television. No.
INT: I would come back again to the Sixties and America in the Sixties. How would you describe it when you first time came there?
MF: To America?
INT: To America, yeah, in the Sixties, how would you describe it?
(Interruption - a bit of discussion re: what question should be)
MF: You know, it's... right or wrong, the feeling about America in that times, at least in... you know... my friends and people I knew, was... and I'm saying, you know, it was not objective. America was the only hope, only hope, especially after the experience which some of us already lived through, even [though] we were too young to remember but we had heard about it: that Europe will never come to help you, Europe will never come. You know what happened, you know, in 1938: France, England, you know, just sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. And finally America stepped in the war and helped, was very instrumental to ending the World War II. So America was here again as a kind of lighthouse of hope and freedom, and that was it. But, you know... I remember when I first time came to New York, invited by the New York Film Festival, and the Czechs, they loved... oh, the communist secret police, they loved that we were being invited to festivals, because that was their only way to go out, you know, andbring some nylon pants to their wives, you know, back home. I remember in 1968 when we were in Cannes, in the festival, and we were supposed to be there 10 days, and the second day the festival collapsed because the French, you know, film-makers raised the red flag in the festival and ended the festival. The most upset were the secret policemen, because... (Hesitates)... "Well... you know, now... what, do I have to give back the per diem for the rest of the eight days we will not be here? But I wanted to buy, you know, this and that and that." They were the most upset. You know, they wished that... "No, no, no, be with the state capitalists, don't..." you know. (Laughs) When I came for the first time to the United States, visiting, I was absolutely fascinated by New York. I get out of the taxi and it's probably the only city which in reality looks better than on the postcards, New York. What do you want to hear about America? I don't know...
INT: It was... Sorry, my fault. (Something in b/g) I would say mostly what your generation or your friends, and you - while you were in Czechoslovakia, did you speak about America, did you speak that something is better there...?
MF: Well, you know, one of the absurditi(es) of the time was that of course, immediately after '48, you know, you practically couldn't see Western movies, American movies at all, at all. Then some, you know, smart-thinking communist ideologists said, "Now we should allow some films which are really showing America in the worst possible light; and the Americans are so stupid, they are making these films criticizing themselves, you know." So, suddenly a film like Twelve Angry Men appeared. Well, very soon (Laughs) they cancelled even this kind of films, because we didn't read it as "This is the real America, bad things in America." No: "This is the greatest thing, if that country can make this kind of things, films about itself, oh, that country must have a pride and must have an inner strength, and must be strong enough and must be free," you know. So they stopped even this kind of films.
INT: Last question. You mentioned that you have an anecdote.
MF: Well, yeah, it was sometimes the life there was so absurd, especially when... You know, as a student I was sort of making some extra money, you know, like five pounds for evening work, freelancing on television, announcing films or like that, and it was live television, everything is live, you know. So I had to write, you know, every single word, send it to the censors; it came back with a stamp and several signatures, you know, and then I had to memorize it, and then I had to, you know, say it, and with... I couldn't... if I deviate even innocently one word, you know, that was a reprimand... you know, somebody was reprimanding me about that. and I (Laughs) remember one day I was... and they were like from some Soviet republic somewhere - I don't know, Tadzhikistan or whatever - some jugglers, you know. So I write my introduction and I send it. It comes back with a question from the censors: "What are their lines?" So I said, "Well, are you saying anything?" "No, just juggling." Oh, well, so I go to the chief of that section of the television and say, "They are not saying anything." "Oh, idiot, no, you can't send nothing to the censors, you know, you have to put something." So I sent a blank page. It came back next day with a stamp, three signature(s) and written "Approved". But it makes sense, because if by chance they said something, I'm responsible. You know what I mean? And I will never forget that I got a task, because nobody else wanted to do it and I needed, you know, five pounds to have a good dinner..., to have a sort of live, improvised conversation with comrade Homola - he was the president of the Society of Czechoslovak-Soviet Socialist Friendship or something like that, and he was also a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Well, and he just came back from the Soviet Union, and so I wrote, you know, like five questions, you know, like, sort of: "Oh, on my way to television I learned that you came back from the Soviet Union. Is that right? Which city you visited?" You know, and I wrote the questions, and I sent these questions to comrade Homola, you know, and explaining that if he would be so very kind to write the answers because I have to give everything to the censors. Nothing came from Mr. Homola, and, you know, airing date was closer and closer. So I thought, "Well, he's such a big, important man," you know. So again I'm going to the head of my division and said, "What shall I do? And is it all right just send them my questions?" "No, no, no, no, no, we have to have some... Listen, you know, if... listen... what the hell, write him an answer... write him the answers, send it to him, and that's it, and then you are, you know... either he will say it or not - it will be his, you know..." OK, so I write all the answers for him; I send it to him. Fine, he comes into the studio, he sit(s) like this, the red light goes on, it's live on television, and I'm saying, "Oh, comrade Homola, I just learned - is it true that you just came back from the Soviet Union?" And comrade Homola... (Sheet rustling)... "Yes, it's true." (Sheet rustling) "Which city did you visit?" (Sheet rustling) "I was in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Odessa." (Sheet rustling) And it went like this, and that was the last time they allowed me to work (Laughs) on Czech television. I was terminated. It was totally absurd.
INT: Thank you, thank you very much.