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The Day of Wrath Was Shot in Fót

In spite of the spectacular riding and fencing scenes, Mexican-American Adrian Rudomin’s period thriller shot in Hungary does not appear to be a light movie.

02 May, 2005 - filmhu
The Day of Wrath Was Shot in Fót
Ruy de Mendoza (Christopher Lambert), who investigates the deeds of inquisitors hunting down baptized Jews sneezed during the shooting of one of the most tense night dialogues, but the tired crew wasn’t angry: a smile ran through the faces of make-up artists, stuntmen, grips and onlookers. Filmhu’s reporter took along a veteran Corsican director’s assistant in order to have a professional size up how tense the atmosphere of the shoot was. The result is satisfactory, what’s more: flattering.

During the last week of the 42-day shoot night scenes were recorded, the crew members were rubbing their eyes amongst tracks, dollies, cameras and lamps in the medieval set in Fót.

The interor of the cathedral
Set design: Márton Ágh
Lambert, whom we tactfully called Number One, was walking up and down in front of the city gate wearing sky-blue panorama glasses usually worn during the downtown rounds of the Tour de France and discussed business matters over the phone. The Middle Ages still flatter him, in spite of the fact that The Day of Wrath takes place in the first half of the 16th century. Looking at the crew it seems that it could be the shoot of a car commercial or a hardcore version of „The Gálvölgyi Show”, since the characters wearing masks and leather pants and the pony-tailed mystics are not particularly characteristic figures, they could even take part at a lottery draw. But appearances are misleading: the people dressed in heavy costumes are international stars and experienced stuntmen.

Béla Unger, stunts expert

While the Corsican veteran kept discovering new pals in the crew, the reporter of filmhu spoke to stunt expert Béla Unger about the challenges of the work.

filmhu: What are the exiting parts ofparticipating in  an international swordfighting-riding picture of such scale?

Béla Unger: This work does not require any special tasks, we simply love it, because this genre is our favorite. You have to fall off the horse, out of the window, we have to design and rehearse rather tough choreographies with the actors – but this is nothing special for us.

You have to fall of the horse, out of the window
The Hungarian stunt team

Tamás Lajos, director of photography

It’s raining, the crew is listening to Zsófia Kende - who changes from producer to first assistant for the day - at the main square of the set-city; she directs the work vehemently. In the background the soup machines are mixing instant soup powder and hot water, Rudomin sometimes leaps out from the control monitors, and calls the attention of Number One and the others at certain matters. It seems that the filmmakers don’t leave anything to luck: following the American method, they record each scene with two cameras and from various angles in order to be able to play around with the material in the editing room. For Tamás Lajos, the director of photography, this procedure is nothing new, since he has worked in the second unit of numerous international productions and has photographed hundreds of „creative” commercials.

filmhu: Isn’t it boring to record every scene in pans and then close-ups from practically every angle?

Tamás Lajos: I wouldn’t call it boring, since this is quite a big challenge because onthe one hand, the lights must be matched; on the other, because this method of shooting requires serious attention. This is a good exercise and practice for me.

Levente Lezsák, Christopher Lambert’s double

Adrian Rudomin is like an enthusiastic child who wants to make the largest asphalt drawing in the world. He sometimes jumps out from his work station, at other times he watches at the latest shot tensely, and suddently blurts out: „Oh, yeah!”. He has been working on the script of the movie for years, and although some say that several directors have gone mad in such cases, he is simply happy to see something he had imagined on the screen. What’s more, he is not only at home in film, he also likes to offer lifestyle advice. During the re-rigging he tells the stunts about his relative, who is above ninenty and swims a mile each day. The stunts expressed their astonishment in English, and listened on as the director told them how everyone needs a bit of stress, otherwise there’s no motivation. Unfortunately, this stressful mood could not be detected among the crew members, but we managed to find the calmest person of all – Christopher Lambert’s double.

filmhu: Béla Unger tells me that you have a degree in philosophy and you currently study cultural anthropology. Are your studies and your job compatible?

Levente Lezsák: These are different parts of my life, which fit together in a natural and logical wao.  I’ve been working as a stuntman since 1993, and I ended up in this profession by chance. When they were rehearsing the rock opera Attila at the open-air stage on Margitsziget, I asked my father - Sándor Lezsák, who wrote the lyrics of the piece – whether they need riders in the play, since I had been working with horses for years.

This is a kamikaze act
Lukács Bicskei

Lukács Bicskei, actor

The crew has been shooting the same scene for the past 3 hours from various angles. Lambert and Lukács Bicskei, who played Skizo in the movie Argo, draw guns after a lengthy stare-down and a muffled conversation. In most cases Bicskei’s gun gets stuck. Everybody is patient about these little accidents. Rudomin startes at the monitor and cries out: „That’s a freaky shot!” The lunch break starts at 1.30 a.m., the cameras and the protagonists get umbrellas to protect them, Lukács Bicskei has to recite a poem in Szeged in the morning.

filmhu: brave does one have to be to undertake an English-speaking part next to a movie star?

Lukács Bicskei: I haven’t played a foreign-language part of this size yet, only short dialogues. It is a kamikaze act on my part: when Rudomin asked me if I if I was able to interpret a long English text, I replied: „Of course.”

Christopher Lambert, protagonist

The re-rigging has finished, but the lunch break seemed further away than ever. The Corsican veteran - who, along with first assistant Bálint Kenyeres, has nearly been beaten by the local crew of alleged jailbirds - is reminiscing about the unpredictable weather of Napoleon’s homeland together with a guy who had worked on The Man from London, and complains about how difficult it is to light an entire city in three hours. In the meantime we managed to get closer to Number One, who is guarded by his silent agent, and still has the strength to pick up his folding chair and give a brief interview to filmhu.

He looks good in the Middle Ages
Christopher Lambert and Szonja Oroszlán
filmhu: You appear to be in great shape in spite of the conditions. They say that you haven’t been working this hard during the past 15 years. How are you feeling?

Christopher Lambert: After 14 hours of work 6 days a week you’re exhausted, since the shoot is very demanding. It’s simply tough work, but I think that it’s going fine.

Director Adrian Rudomin

Yes, Hungarian wines are excellent, it’s a shame that they only have tea, coffe and soda at the canteen. Number One hurries to finish the last take before „lunch”, and according to the press girls, he afterwards locks himself up in his trailer, consumes his modest feast of chicken and makes a few dozens of business calls. Lambert, by the way, is very kind and attentive, although his English accent is more like that of a junior Mob member, not a cosmopolitan movie star. Since we’ve already spoken to nearly every important person and the Corsican veteran has met all of his mates, all that’s left is to interview the director. We caught Adrian Rudomin on his way to the canteen.

filmhu: You wrote the script of The Day of Wrath years ago. How close to you feel to the story?

It’s close to his mind as well
Adrian Rudomin directs

Adrian Rudomin: This screenplay is not only close to my heart but to my mind as well. It concerns a subject I find very important: persecution. This phenomenon has always been present throughout history, and I’m personally affected by it because my family is a survivor of the Holocaust.

While walking towards the canteen, the director dazzled the small crew of filmhu with a surprising explanation of history, proving, for example, that every disaster in history is the result of conflicts over love and sex, and Hitler started World War 2 because he couldn’t tolerate the fact that he was born with an unpronounceable name.