As productions continually increase the number of setting locations appearing in their films, they need a cities that are able to portray a variety of locations. Budapest has been privileged with ever increasingly being chosen to do just that. What is it about the city that stands it above the rest?
Hollywood may be the iconic face of film worldwide, but an ever increasing number of directors and producers are crossing the pond for sets and locations in attractive European regions. The latest Star Wars films have found home in London studios and Iceland has been an ideal landscape for Game of Thrones. For city portrayal however, Budapest has found increasing international interest as both a headline setting and a unique filming location for its ability to replicate almost any other city in the world.
Budapest is renowned for its architectural flexibility thanks to its long and colourful history. Ancient Roman ruins, grand neo-classical structures, baroque influences, organic art nouveau designs and modern shapes and structures can be easily found across the city. This provides any production with ample flexibility to accommodate for varying backdrops, culture and era of portrayal. Some of the world’s most predominant film franchises and productions have either set Budapest as the setting or as a stand in part for locations from Paris to Beunos Aires. To paint the picture of the city’s Swiss Army Knife capabilities more clearly, the following is a list of Hollywood productions that had the city as key role player in production.
Director: Len Wiseman
This gothic hit from the early 2000s, starring Kate Beckinsale, become a cult hit and resulted in several sequels. Underworld and many of the sequels were predominantly, if not completely filmed in Budapest alone. Many familiar squares, restaurants and even the underground system make appearances in the film. The setting of the film creates a thin line between old world of vampire folklore and the modern era. Budapest however, blends the two together seamlessly in a shadowed and dystopian complexion whilst maintaining an elegant and modern backdrop. This portrays a unique setting that is everywhere and nowhere in time and place. To the dedicated fans of the franchise, Budapest is highly regarded as the true home of their favourite characters and storylines.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
Director: Brad Bird
Certainly one of the most iconic action packed franchises in the world by Brad Bird (Tomorrowland, The Incredibles), Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol starring Tom Cruise, is known for its numerous different plot settings. In the fourth film of the series, Budapest was chosen to host early helicopter shots showcasing the Parliament building and St Stephen’s Basilica as well as as a sequence where a mission does not go according to plan in the multifaceted architecture and busy platforms of Keleti Station. Displaying the allurement of the location and the surrounding areas, thus giving the film that distinct European quality. Budapest’s significant role in the film was further emphasised by the opening track in the film being based on the city, “Give Her My Budapest” by Michael Giacchino.
The Raven (2012)
Director: James McTeigue
Setting a film in the distant past will often always entail a significant number of issues for production to overcome. Most apparent being that the site looks insufficiently like the city it used to be. The Raven, a Baltimore based thriller set in the mid-19th Century was subject to these issues. One solution was to use a vast amount of CGI and studio trickery in order to transform modern Baltimore back into its former appearance, during the time of Edgar Allan Poe, who authored the narrative poem which the film is based on. The second option was to transfer to the striking architecture of Budapest.
With the exception of costumes and horse-drawn carriages, little was changed or added to the street scenes. For instance, the scene attached, filmed at Szobi and Eötvös streets (which coincidentally also featured in Underworld), shows no suggestions that the shot was filmed 4,500 miles from the original story’s setting. In addition to the street scenes, the film utilises the interiors of various buildings in Budapest, such as the Palace of Justice, where the essential ballroom scene was shot.
Upon its release, The Raven received international acclaim for its visual authenticity and ability to transport the viewers to a past era, without conforming to the habit of relying upon visual effects. Achieved instead by using the modern European setting of Budapest.
Director: Paul Feig
Returning to the theme of espionage, with the comedy Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law and Jason Statham. The plot follows a CIA office worker (Melissa McCarthy) who is selected to go into the field after the death of the CIA’S top agent (Jude Law). Like Mission Impossible, Spy is set in multiple locations around the world. However what sets it apart from Mission Impossible is that despite these various plot setting, Spy was completely filmed in Hungary (with the exception of a couple of scenes).
According to the films director, Paul Feig, the city was perfect for the film, as its architectural diversity allowed it to portray both Paris and Rome before being able to play the role of Budapest itself in the final act of the movie. Additionally, the interior designs of some of Budapest’s venues were able to appear on screen. One of which being the Hungarian State Opera House in its role of a Rome Casino, where McCarthy and Statham have a rude exchange.
Spy is another impeccable example of how Budapest’s universal identity can be the location and host that Hollywood set designers would kill for.
Filming in Hungary
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