Renowned writer Martina Forman makes her mark with her first play
“I feel like the guy who only sings well in the shower. Yes, my books are popular, but no one can read them here,” says Martina Forman with a laugh. She is best known locally as the attractive wife of Oscar-winning director Milos Forman, or the peripatetic mom of teenaged twins Andy and Jim. But in her native Czech Republic, Forman has true celebrity status: four of the five books she’s written have been on the bestseller lists; she’s written two highly acclaimed TV movies; she often appears on major talk-show circuits there, and her face occasionally graces giant billboards along the city streets.
“It’s a great feeling to be promoted along Prague’s highways, but my solitude here keeps me realistic,” she says from her 1748 Warren home, where she does all of her writing at a desktop in a sunny yellow room overlooking the family’s 64-acre estate.
But Forman’s “shower singing” could now possibly be heard in America as well, as she just wrote her first feature film script—in English. The Rule Breakers is a riveting portrayal of the early life of supermodel Paulina Porizkova, capturing the inhumanity of the
Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia, as well as the very complicated and passionate relationship of Paulina’s parents.
Forman met Porizkova a few years ago at a party in Manhattan, and the two became instant friends: they’re the same age (48); both are Czech-born and speak the same languages; they were both models, and are now writers; both have two beloved sons; and both are married to famous men—Porizkova, to Ric Ocasek of the rock band The Cars. “Every time we’d have lunch or get together, Porizkova would tell me more about her life,” Forman says. “I became obsessed. I could not understand why nobody has ever told this story yet. Then one day I was driving home from New York to Warren, and it was right by my mailbox that a light bulb turned on in my head: the story was waiting for me to write it.”
Porizkova, the most successful supermodel of the late 1980s and 1990s, best known for her Sports Illustrated and Estee Lauder careers, had the same epiphany about Forman. “People keep expecting me to write my life story, but I’ve been living it for 48 years; leave me alone,” she says during a recent interview at her country home, a seven-bedroom Colonial revival in Millbrook, N.Y. “Martina is the one to do it. She’s a brilliant writer, and she truly gets the whole picture. And when I read the script I couldn’t believe how right on it was.”
The Rule Breakers starts with the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, and how Paulina’s parents rushed emigration to Austria and later Sweden. They left the toddler behind with her grandmother, while plotting increasingly intricate plans to retrieve her. “It’s an erotic political thriller, showing the Communist regime in a nutshell,” Forman says. “Paulina’s mother and father were very young; they barely knew themselves, let alone each other. They had a complicated relationship with a lot of sexual energy and a lot of dysfunction.”
Still, Paulina’s parents worked fervently to get their daughter back. They waged a highly publicized hunger strike, and Paulina’s mother, Anna, even snuck back into Czechoslovakia hoping to smuggle her daughter out. She was caught and thrown in jail while six months pregnant. After years of dramatic political and diplomatic wrangling, Anna was freed to leave the country with Paulina and her brother Jachym, who were then nine and two.
But the parents’ marriage didn’t survive the separation. Porizkova was also brutally bullied after arriving in Sweden, by kids who called her a Communist or made fun of her for being gangly and tall. “I was the outcast, the reject,” Porizkova recalls. “I had my head dunked in the toilet. It was insane.”
Everything changed one day in 1980 when 14-year-old Paulina was discovered by Elite, Paris’ top modeling agency.
Forman was overcome by Porizkova’s history, and went to the Czech Republic to research Secret Police archives, which opened to the public after democracy was restored in 1989, and spent hours interviewing Paulina’s mother, who lives in Westchester. “Paulina’s brother lives even closer to me, in New Milford. I was amazed at the coincidence,” Forman says.
Now the screenplay will be circulated to producers. “The biggest problem will be the casting,” says Forman. “Actors usually are better looking than the real people. In this case it will be hard to find some as good looking as the real ones.”
Porizkova, a popular blogger, has written a well-reviewed novel, A Model Summer, and is working on a memoir that deals with her sometimes debilitating bouts with anxiety. “Martina was so scared to ask me if she could do the script,,” Porizkova says. “I’ve read all of her books in Czech, which are hilarious and poignant. I could not have asked for anyone better to tell my story.”