An Interview with Andrew G. Vajna, Producer
On the Set of Evita in Budapest
Q: Could you just tell me your association with this project and what attracted you to it?
ANDREW G. VAJNA: I started with Evita about 10 years ago, when I was still at Carolco and when my partner and I wanted to make the movie and we started with Oliver Stone [as director]. In those days Meryl Streep was the candidate [for the role of Evita], and there was quite a bit of back and forth between Oliver and Meryl, whether she wanted to do it or not to do it, and ultimately she said no, and then Oliver was very upset. The project didn't go forward, even though she later changed her mind. But by that time Oliver was out doing Born on the 4th of July and other movies, so therefore the project fell apart. Later it came across my desk when I was at Disney, and in recent years with a director who I wasn't really very comfortable with and Madonna. That project also didn't go forward, I think because it just didn't have the right elements in those days. Then about two years ago, Oliver Stone was interested again. It's been a passion with some of these directors for a long time, and Oliver kept coming back to it. In this instance he wanted to do it with Michelle Pfeiffer, but unfortunately the budget area was strained to such an extent that the project became unfeasible. Then Disney lost the rights and I decided to buy them myself, so I made a deal with Robert Stigwood and Associates and acquired the project myself. I then started courting Alan Parker to direct it because I felt that he was really the only director that was right for this film, with the kind of musical history that he's got and his musical background. Alan and I then talked a lot about how to cast it, and of course, Madonna was on the forefront of the list along with Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. Now here we are on the streets of Hungary filming the movie.
Q: You come from Hungary. Tell us about your association with Budapest and coming back here.
ANDREW G. VAJNA: I left Budapest when I was 12 years old. It was a sort of an interesting adventure for me abroad, going to Canada and Hong Kong, then America, until I ended up being in the film business and creating Carolco and now Cinergi. We've come a long way and it's really a lot of fun for me to be back here working with Hungarians and the British crews and some of the Americans in order to create this movie. I've brought many projects back to Hungary. We shot Music Box here, we shot Red Heat here, and now Evita. Of course, this production has been the biggest one I've ever been involved with as far as Hungary is concerned. I think it's a fantastic place to work, and they've done well by us.
Q: How do you feel about the change of going from Buenos Aires to Budapest?
ANDREW G. VAJNA: No problem for me. I think it is a little problematic maybe for the crew with the jet lag. However, I think maybe Hungary is the only place in the world that we would be able to do these street sequences that we're filming here. The architecture is the thing that Alan and the production designer actually chose. They came to Hungary because of the possibilities of these huge scenes on the streets of Budapest, and because Budapest sort of looks like Buenos Aires anyway.
Q: What are your feelings about this project and mounting a musical like this?
ANDREW G. VAJNA: I think it's an unknown quantity today. I think musicals are rather risky as a whole, especially this one, which is more of an opera musical than just a straight musical. I think, though, that Evita -- which in my opinion is Andrew Lloyd Webber's best work -- will be watched by many, many people. I think certainly that the play and the record have been very popular all over the world, so I'm looking forward to really exciting the audiences with the movie. I think this film will be an event that will make the story unique and exciting. What Alan is doing with this movie is something so spectacular that we've never seen it on film before, so I look forward to its being a big success.