The Ervin Szabó Library Library, built in 1889 in Neo-Baroque style, has been used by international film directors from 1972 onwards. So photogenic is this ornate landmark that the library has just posted a list of top movies filmed there. Originally home to the family of Count Frigyes Wenckheim, its interior is a marvel of winding staircases, ornate ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and wood-carved reading rooms. Even after renovation, some areas retain their original interior design, complete with plush armchairs and period furniture, which transport bookworms – and movie fans – back in time.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the international film world has been drawn to this Budapest treasure. It all started with Richard Burton’s 1972 film Bluebeard. The story is set in Austria in the 1930s, and Burton plays a World War I hero hiding dark secrets. Much of the film was shot around Budapest, and Elizabeth Taylor even celebrated her 40th birthday here. In the trailer below, the library’s ballroom can be seen at 0:09.
In 1989, scenes from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular The Phantom of the Opera were shot here in the library. Unfortunately the film was a failure, but it is interesting to note that the phantom was played by Robert Englund – later of Freddy Krueger fame – and Bill Nighy played the opera house’s unhappy owner.
The library is still making appearances today: in 2018, scenes from The Alienist and Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow were shot in the monumental building. It also functioned as Countess Rédey’s castle in the 2018 Hungarian film Napszállta ("Sunset"), and can even be spotted in 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard, 2014’s Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, 2014’s The Duke of Burgundy, 2015’s Casanova, and even the 2015 comedy Spy, starring Melissa McCarthy. The full breakdown can be found here.