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Actor Robert Pattinson on the set of Bel Ami in Budapest, Hungary. Photo: Shutterstock
Actor Robert Pattinson on the set of Bel Ami in Budapest, Hungary. Photo: Shutterstock

Celebrity spotting in Budapest - the new Hollywood

If you want to have lunch at a table next to Angela Jolie, a drink at the same bar as Jude Law, or stand in line behind Brad Pitt to buy groceries, then visit Budapest.

It has glitz and glamor. It has historic quarters and plenty of grandeur. Romance and astounding views? Absolutely. It also has four modern film studios and attractive costs. No wonder then that Hollywood is turning its attention to Budapest and using the city as a backdrop for its movies. To the left: Leighton Meester and Selena Gomez filming Monte Carlo in Budapest, to the right Angelina Jolie directing Photo: Shutterstock

“Both Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas have been in town,” says film producer Csaba Czinkoczky, our Hungarian guide, who was born and raised in Budapest. “Hanks was shooting the latest Da Vinci Code movie.”

Csaba Czinkoczky Photo: Tyra Tollstoy Hoffman

Czinkoczky is part of the new wave of movie making in Budapest. He has made a series of high-profile and controversial documentaries and also co-produced the feature film Nine Miles Down, a large-scale production with a budget of US$22 million. Half of it was filmed in Hungary.

“Budapest is a beautiful city,” he says. “But American producers don’t come here to cross the Chain Bridge. It’s all about business, and there’s a lot of money to be made. Foreign filmmakers get over 20% in tax rebate of the total budget they spend in Hungary.”

Czinkoczky adds that there is a lot of homegrown movie making talent in Hungary, so movie productions don’t have to fly in a lot of expensive professionals, such as photographers, set designers or stuntmen. “Many members of Hollywood’s talented and experienced film crews are Hungarians,” he says.

W e’re in Czinkoczky’s flashy automobile – a Mustang convertible – as he takes us on a tour around Pest, the city’s most dynamic district. There are countless stunning views of the city’s beauty and its varied architecture, including the synagogue, the parliament building, the Palace of Arts, abandoned buildings and luxury villas. Many famous movie scenes have been filmed at these sights.

Beautiful Budapest and the Danube River Photo: Tyra Tollstoy Hoffman

We pass a boulevard where the music video for Michael Jackson’s History was recorded. “This is the terrace where Madonna stood when she played Eva Perón,” Czinkoczky says as we pass the Opera House. The building played the part of the presidential palace in Buenos Aires in the movie Evita.

It is an excellent example of how Budapest is often used in famous movies, but receives very little advertising or acknowledgement in return.

“The Four Seasons Hotel is where all the Hollywood stars stay,” Czinkoczky says, pointing towards a castle-like building that looks over the River Danube and the green hills of Buda. “Last time Jude Law was in town, it didn’t go unnoticed,” he says with a broad smile.

Czinkoczky shows us an apartment owned by French actor Gérard Depardieu, a house that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rent when they are in town and the yoga studio that Jeremy Irons frequents.

Budapest is clearly becoming one of the best places in the world for celebrity spotting.

Text: Camilla Tollstoy