If the recent release of Jennifer Lawrence starring Red Sparrow did anything for Budapest, it solidified the city as an all-purpose filming location for the spy-film genre. In watching the preview, posted below, you can see from just this short clip how extensively the city is utilized, from the opening shot from above Gellért Hill, then on to the New York Café, which we recently blogged about, in addition to finding a few of the more unique locations in a long and eerie underpass that runs under the Western Station train tracks, and the stained glass mosaic hall of Semmelweis University tower. Most surprising, though not in Budapest proper, is the appearance of the Fabó Éva Swimming Pool in the industrial town of Dunaújváros. The film also includes obligatory shots of the Parliament and State Opera. If fact, 65 locations in Hungary can be seen in the film.
According to Daily Variety: “The action in the novel on which Red Sparrow is based takes place principally in Helsinki and Moscow, but in the film Budapest replaces the Finnish city, as well as playing the Russian capital. Ready (a producer) recalls the visit he made with others from the production team. ‘We discovered a gold mine in terms of beautiful locations to set our main story around,’ he says.”
But Red Sparrow wasn’t the first spy film to recognize the city as a wonderful setting for the genre. Not by a long shot. Way back when Robert Redford teamed up with Brad Pitt in 2001 for the hit Spy Game we got to see the possibilities of Budapest cast in this role. Later, in 2002, the ill-fated comedy I Spy saw the Chain Bridge hi-jinks of Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. More recently have been installments in the Mission Impossible and Die Hard franchises, as well as the well-received adaptation of John Le’Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, not to mention the Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy. This spring will see the release of the comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me, also filmed in Budapest. Local industry has also taken its cue: Budapest Noir, while more of a crime film, also makes use of the same mysterious atmosphere.
The answer as to why it is so ideal for the genre lies in the diversity and authenticity of locations. Despite a lull in Cold War era spy material after 9/11, the genre of the ‘West’ vs. Russia is still very much alive. Because Budapest has had one foot in each world, it is a natural location when the modern needs to mix with Soviet nostalgia. Moreover, there is just a gritty noir feeling to the city that makes it so filmable. Finally, there have been hugely advantageous tax breaks installed for film-makers that continue to this day.
Only time will tell if Budapest will remain Spy Central. If not, it is still in demand as a location for horror, Sci-Fi, and basically any American film set in Europe. We’ll just wait and see what our sources say.
Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.