'Rambo' Producer, Hungarian Industry Steward Andy Vajna Dies at 74

By Macnab, Geoffrey | Screen International, January 20, 2019 | Go to article overview

'Rambo' Producer, Hungarian Industry Steward Andy Vajna Dies at 74


Macnab, Geoffrey, Screen International


Son Of Saul director Laszlo Nemes hails man who ‘recreated the Hungarian film landscape’.

Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer involved in Rambo, Die Hard and Terminator who went on late in his career to serve as commissioner in charge of the Hungarian film industry, has died aged 74. The news of his death was confirmed on Sunday (20) by the Hungarian National Film Fund.

A colourful, and flamboyant figure who worked as a hairdresser before embarking on his career as a producer, the Budapest-born Vajna was the co-founder of Carolco Pictures with his friend and fellow Hungarian, Mario Kassar, in the mid 1970s. They were pioneers in the world of foreign sales, financing and distribution. Thanks to the success of the Rambo films, they became a major force in independent production in the 1980s.

In 2011, Vajna was a controversial choice to “clean up” the Hungarian industry after the break-up of the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary (MMKA.) This organisation, set up in 1998 to fill the void left by Soviet-era bodies, was riddled with huge debt and had collapsed. Many in the local industry (including the country’s most distinguished directors Bela Tarr and Miklos Jancso) protested against his appointment. They worried that he would introduce Hollywood values to their film culture and were suspicious of his business ventures and seemingly close links to Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban.

“Everybody kind of hates us because nobody is getting it all (the public money) but at least we are putting order to the wreck and nobody is going bankrupt,” Vajna commented of the changes that he made. “Banks aren’t closing down the producers so I think we’ve accomplished quite a bit.”

Laszlo Nemes’ Son Of Saul was backed by the Film Fund at a time when other financiers shunned it. The film went on to win an Oscar. Contacted by Screendaily, Nemes acknowledged fully the part that Vajna played in his emergence as one of the most prominent young auteurs in European cinema. …

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