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Puskás film proponent Andy Vajna passes away

Andy Vajna, a dominant figure of the Hungarian and international film industry, died on Sunday in his Budapest home at the age of 74 following a long illness, state media organ MTI announced the same day. The world-renowned film producer and government commissioner for the Hungarian film industry had carried out extensive work in recent years on creating a film about Ferenc Puskás.

Picture: MTI Photo/Péter Kollányi

Born in Budapest in 1944, Vajna escaped from Hungary alone, aged 12, in 1956, emigrating to Canada with the help of the Red Cross and eventually finding his family again in Los Angeles. He studied at UCLA and began working in the university’s motion picture department. He later started a photography business before founding a wig-making company and operated a cinema in Hong Kong.

Vajna was one of the world’s most renowned film producers. 59 films are linked to him, including globally-known and acclaimed works such as Szabadság, Szerelem, Music Box, the Rambo films, Angel Heart, Terminator, Evita and Jacob’s Ladder.

With good friend and Terminator 3 lead-role Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Out of all Hungarian films made between 1997 and 2019 the biggest box-office hit was his film A Miniszter félrelép. In its commemorative announcement, the Hungarian National Film Fund wrote that: “Andy Vajna has never forgotten his Hungarian roots and has always paid attention to the domestic film industry. As a powerful government commissioner, he has been working for the Hungarian film industry since 2011 and under his direction Hungarian film has risen once again to the higher echelons of world film making”.

Following the consolidation of the film support system, the establishment of the Hungarian National Film Fund also became linked to his name. During his time as government commissioner such films as Saul fia, A nagy füzet, Kincsem, Testről és lélekről, 1945 and BÚÉK were made. His role in reviving the Hungarian film industry is indisputable, the volume of films being made during his tenure grew almost five-fold. During the ‘Vajna Era’, Hungarian films supported by the Hungarian National Film Fund have won more than one hundred international awards, among them the Oscar, Golden Globe, and Golden Bear.

The announcement highlighted that Andy Vajna told his direct colleagues last week that: "It is my passion to give back", that is, his passion to give back something to the country where he was born.

In recent years, Andy Vajna has been working on a feature film that he would have produced. Collaborating with him on the project was old friend Joe Eszterhas, a Hollywood scriptwriter of, among others, Szabadság, Szerelem, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls.

“As a producer, I have been thinking for a long time about how to make an exciting and interesting film about the most famous Hungarian footballer, Ferenc Puskás. I have started working together on it with Joe Eszterhas, who is already working on the film's script. Joe and I make a good team and we’ve already worked together on many films, the most recent being Szabadság, Szerelem” Vajna told Index in April 2017.

“Puskás is known the world over and in many places to this day the first thing that springs to mind about Hungary in a person’s mind is Puskás. It’s high time to make a film about Puskás’s life” reported Nemzeti Sport. Vajna not long ago reported that the main storyline for the film had already been worked out. The film’s professional advisor is György Szöllősi, editor-in-chief of Nemzeti Sport, and biographer of the legendary footballer.

It is not yet known what the fate of the Puskás film will be following Vajna’s death. We hope that this huge cinema project that commemorates the greatest Hungarian sporting legend will be realised and be dedicated to the greatest-ever Hungarian film producer.

 

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