Hungarian-American movie producer Andrew G. Vajna died in his Budapest home on Sunday following a long illness, the Hungarian National Film Fund, which Vajna headed, announced on Sunday, as reported by The New York Times and domestic media.
Vajna produced 59 films in all, including “Evita” starring Madonna, Sylvester Stallone’s first three “Rambo” movies, and “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since 2011, he had worked as a government commissioner under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, presiding over a revival of Hungarian cinema.
“Andy Vajna was a dear friend and a revolutionary force in Hollywood. He proved that you don’t need studios to make huge movies like ‘Terminator 2’ or ‘Total Recall.’ He had a huge heart, and he was one of the most generous guys around. I’ll miss him. My thoughts are with his family,” Schwarzenegger wrote on Twitter.
Movies funded during Vajnaʼs tenure at the head of the Hungarian National Film Fund won numerous international awards. They included “Son of Saul,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for its portrayal of life in a Nazi concentration camp.
As part of Orbán’s ongoing efforts to expand his influence over the domestic media in Hungary, Vajna also acquired one of Hungary’s main commercial television channels, TV2, which adopted a strongly pro-government stance and won a major chunk of state advertising spending. He also owned commercial radio station Rádió 1.
Hungarian news agency MTI recalled that Vajna, who was born in Budapest in 1944, fled Hungary in 1956, at the age of 12, and went on to study cinematography at the University of California in Los Angeles. Later finding fame as the producer of numerous Hollywood blockbusters, he worked with the directors Oliver Stone, Paul Verhoven, James Cameron and Roland Joffe, as well as actors including Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Michael Douglas, Robert de Niro, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, and Scarlett Johansson.
From 2011, Vajna served as government commissioner for developing Hungaryʼs film industry and was instrumental in consolidating support for the profession and establishing the Hungarian National Film Fund.
Vajna held a stake in the Korda Film Studios in Etyek, west of Budapest, and also owned the Las Vegas casinos.