The Hungarian-American produced many films over the course of his career, and invigorated the cinema of his home country

By Christian Holub
January 20, 2019 at 02:27 PM EST
MJ Kim/Getty Images

Hungarian-American film producer Andy Vajna has died, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

Vajna was born in Budapest on Aug. 1, 1944, but he didn’t stay there for long. He escaped Hungary’s postwar communist regime in 1956, the same year that the country was shaken by a nationwide revolution against the Soviet Union’s control. The revolution was ultimately suppressed, but Vajna made it out — first to Canada, and then to Los Angeles, where he reunited with his parents.

He went on to become a successful film producer. Some of Vajna’s most notable productions include Sylvester Stallone’s first three Rambo films. He also produced many films set in Hungary, such as 1996’s Evita starring Madonna. In 2005, he co-produced (alongside the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Lucy Liu) the documentary Freedom’s Fury, which told the story of the 1956 Olympic water pool match between Hungary and the Soviet Union. This violent game, sometimes known as the “Blood in the Water” match, was depicted as the receptacle for the political tensions related to the revolution that year, which Vajna had escaped as a child.

Since 2011, Vajna has been a political commissioner in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, in charge of developing Hungary’s film industry. His efforts led to the creation of the Hungarian National Film Fund, which helps finance Hungarian films. One of their productions, 2015’s Son of Saul, went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.