Ivan Passer, Czech New Wave Pioneer and ‘Cutter’s Way’ Director, Dies at 86

Filmmaker was a frequent collaborator and close friend of the late Milos Forman

Ivan Passer
Photo Credit: Petr Novák, Wikipedia

Ivan Passer, a pioneering filmmaker in the Czech New Wave, a frequent collaborator with the late Milos Forman and the director of the 1981 film “Cutter’s Way,” has died. He was 86.

A friend of the family, Amina Johns, told the Associated Press (via The Washington Post) that Passer died Thursday in Reno, Nevada. Rodney Sumpter, an attorney for Passer, said the director had been dealing with pulmonary issues.

Passer got his start in filmmaking as a co-writer on some of Forman’s films in the ’60s, and he directed his first feature “Intimate Lighting” in 1965. He and Forman were students along with Václav Havel and Jerzy Skolimowski at a boarding school in Prague after WWII. They would later escape Prague to Hollywood just as Russian tanks began invading the region in 1969.

Ivan Passer Milos Forman
Ivan Passer (left) and Milos Forman at an Academy salute to Forman in 2004. (Photo by Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images)

Once in America, Passer directed several English language films and got the chance to work with some of the business’ top stars. He’s perhaps best known for the crime and noir film “Cutter’s Way” from 1981, which starred John Heard and Jeff Bridges in a story about a man who witnesses a friend dumping a dead body and suspects the killer to be one of his friends.

He’d also direct Michael Caine and Cybill Shepherd in “Silver Bears,” Omar Sharif and Karen Black in “Crime and Passion” and Carroll O’Connor and Ernest Borgnine in “Law and Disorder.”

Passer was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 2001 for directing the TV children’s special “The Wishing Tree,” and he won a Czech Lion Artistic Achievement Award in 2007.