Czech-Born Director Ivan Passer Dies at 86

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Ivan Passer

He was prominent in the new wave of Czechoslovak cinema of the 1960s before moving to the U.S.

Czech-born director Ivan Passer, known for the U.S. cult thriller Cutter’s Way, died Thursday in Reno, Nev. He was 86.

The Czech online newspaper iDnes reported the filmmaker's death without revealing the cause.

Passer, a native of Prague, attended a secondary school alongside future prominent director Milos Forman and the Czech Republic's president Václav Havel before studying at the country's best known FAMU film school.

He first came to the limelight in the 1960s as a screenwriter of Forman's features Horí, má panenko (The Firemen's Ball) and Lásky jedné plavovlásky (The Loves of a Blonde). Passer's debut feature was 1965's Intimní osvetlení (Intimate Lighting).

Alongside Forman, Vera Chytilova and Jan Nemec, Passer belonged to the new wave of Czechoslovak cinema, which signified a dramatic departure from the socialist realism genre promoted by the Communist rulers.

Following the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Passer and Forman fled the country and eventually moved to the United States.

Passer's best-known U.S. movie is 1981's neo-noir thriller Cutter's Way, starring John Heard and Jeff Bridges.

His other U.S. films include 1971's Born to Win starring Robert De Niro, 1974's Law and Disorder, 1978's Silver Bears and the 1992 HBO film Stalin, which brought Robert Duvall a Golden Globe for his performance as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Passer's last directorial effort was the 2006 Kazakh/Russian/French co-production Nomad: The Warrior, which he directed alongside Sergei Bodrov and Talgat Temenov.

In 2008, Passer collected a Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.