[on Audition (1964)] There was a small theater called Semaphore in Prague, we had an idea to make a fake audition in this theater. We wrote something like a screenplay, I brought a young cinematographer to Milos Forman, Miroslav Ondrícek, who did later Amadeus (1984) and became one of the top cinematographers in the world. Milos bought an East German 16mm camera and we got film stock left over from a TV production. When we used it, the TV laboratory would develop it for a bottle of wine. For the little money we had, we made about 100 minutes of that film. We showed it to the studios and they said "go ahead we will give you money to finish it." We wrote another short story about a folk band, Why Do We Need All the Brass Bands? (1964), and finished the film and to our total surprise the film played even in New York.
[on Intimate Lighting (1965)] I met a guy who saw Intimate lighting sixty times. When I make a film I like to have an emotional target, I like to imagine what state of mind the audience should leave the theatre with, and in this movie I was hoping they would like to come back because they liked the characters. We visit our relatives, our friends, we know what they are going to say, to do, but we like them. I thought that is how my movie should be, and it did happen.
[on casting of George Segal in Born to Win (1971)] United Artists had a contract with George Segal and they were obliged to give him three projects a year, so they gave him the script. Segal decided to do it. But I didn't want George Segal to do it! He was a very difficult actor. The writer begged me on his knees to take George Segal because otherwise the film wouldn't have been made. I accepted but he was a real prima donna.
[on violence in films] I refused to do violent films. I consider it is dangerous. I have seen real violence during WW2. The violence affects some people who are not able to realize the difference between reality and fantasy. So I take myself out of 80% of the American market. I got offers all the time and I rejected them. I was teaching at Sundance and [on Robert Redford] offered me a film about an American Indian that was so violent I refused it. I don't want to see these movies, how should I make them?
[on Law and Disorder (1974)] I met a taxi driver who told me he was part of a vigilante group in Lower Manhattan, trying to protect the neighborhood against crime. I thought it was a great idea for a comedy. I wrote the script and I made a big mistake: it was almost like a slapstick comedy, [on Ernest Borgnine] was one of the guys, and for some reason I killed Ernie's character in the film. It was a change of genre inside the film. The audience was laughing all the time, suddenly this guy was killed and the audience was stunned. I learned that you should never do that.