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The New York Palace as a Hollywood movie star – Depictions of Budapest on the silver screen


  • sponsored WLB

20/10/2022 10.55am

Our capital is a favourite location for Hollywood blockbusters, having played many roles on the silver screen from Moscow to Berlin and Paris, with imposing buildings, bridges over the Danube, and a stunning cityscape that has inspired quite a few directors. And the five-star New York Palace hotel not only offers luxury accommodation to the biggest stars visiting our country, but Brad Pitt, Robert Redford, Robert Pattinson, Adrien Brody, and Jennifer Lawrence have also appeared in the palace at the Grand Boulevard for a film shoot.

Featuring the most beautiful café in the world

When the idea of building the New York Palace was first conceived, it was already a foregone conclusion that the building would be the setting for a series of twists and turns across the ages. Even in its day, the majestic palace hosted some of Hungary's biggest celebrities, and 120 years later, Hollywood stars are passing the door handle to each other, so much so that the building itself has become a major star in the cinematic world.

Today, the New York Palace is home to the luxury hotel Anantara, and appears in many Hollywood films

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

But first, let's go back to the beginning. The story of one of the most lavish buildings of the turn of the century began with a New York insurance company that hired a young man from Paris, Miksa Arányi, to build a network in Hungary. Designed by the star architect of the day, Alajos Hauszmann, the building of the distinguished foreign firm became a centre of literary and artistic life when it was opened in 1894, with its four-storey neo-Renaissance palace and baroque New York Café.

The impressive interior of the New York Café has inspired many directors

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Later, due to the storms of history, the building was temporarily closed, but in the mid-2000s it was renovated and reopened as a hotel, and from 2020 the Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas group ensures that visitors can enjoy the glamour of the turn of the century and the luxury of the modern age.

The renovation of the New York Café has twice won the title of the world's most beautiful café, and it's no coincidence that it has caught the eye of film crews from Hollywood.

The café's baroque interior with its huge mirrors, luxurious chandeliers, twisted columns, and marble panelling, the elegant, clean interior of the atrium, and the neo-Renaissance palace façade provides a magnificent background for a key scene.

New York Café has won the title of the world's most beautiful café twice over

Photo: Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel

Rooftop and atrium

The palace has been on the big screen since 2001, when it appeared in Spy Game starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. According to the story, CIA agent Nathan Muir and his apprentice, Tom Bishop were inseparable, but life swept them apart until, years later, Bishop is imprisoned in Beijing on espionage charges, abandoned by his superiors, and only with Muir's help can he escape. The film was partly shot in Budapest, in one scene, for example, the two main characters have lunch in the New York Café, in West Germany according to the story.

New York Café as a restaurant in Spy Game

Photo: Kémjátszma

The stunning interior of the New York Café is featured in several films

Photo: Hartyányi Norbert - We Love Budapest

Spy Game also features the Nyugati railway station, reminiscent of the German capital's train station, but a yellow tram also runs along the quayside behind the two protagonists, and the famous rooftop scene was shot on the roof of the Georgia Building (former rental palace of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) in Astoria, which offers a stunning panorama of the 7th district, as does the rooftop suite of the Anantara Hotel in New York Palace.

The Georgia Building's rooftop was one of the featured locations in Spy Game

Photo: Kémjátszma

View from a rooftop room at Anantara New York Palace

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

The 7th season of Homeland, the highly successful American TV show that started in 2011 and has been running for 8 seasons, was shot almost entirely in Budapest, so in addition to several iconic Budapest locations, such as the Buda Castle or the National Széchényi Library, the New York Palace also appears, this time as a Moscow location. The scene in the picture, for example, takes us into the beautifully renovated atrium of the hotel.

The New York Palace atrium in the TV show Homeland

Photo: Homeland

The New York Palace atrium today

Photo: Anantara New York Palace

Paris, Berlin, San Francisco

In 2012, the building imitated 19th-century Paris as one of the locations for the filming of Bel Ami, based on the novel by Guy de Maupassant. The film stars Robert Pattinson as Georges Duroy, the unscrupulous and ambitious womanizer, and his two mistresses are played by Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas. In addition to the New York Palace, the Opera House and Andrássy Avenue also appear in the film.

Robert Pattinson in Bel Ami – the New York Palace imitates a Parisian location

Photo: Bel Ami

The New York Palace could be in 19th-century Paris

Photo: Anantara New York Palace

In 2014, the History Channel filmed its self-produced mini-series Houdini in Budapest, starring Adrien Brody. The choice of the capital was not a coincidence, as the famous escape artist was born in Budapest as Erik Weisz and achieved his greatest success in the United States.

Houdini's Hungarian origins mean that the capital also plays itself in the series, but some of the locations shown as foreign may also be very familiar.

The Budapest Opera appears in a Berlin scene, the National Museum appears as a Washington location, and Andrássy Avenue as a San Francisco one. And when the magician officially arrives in Budapest, it's in a room in the New York Café called Deep Water, where Houdini takes possession of a Russian language book that he will use on his next trip.

Most of the Houdini mini-series was filmed in Budapest

Photo: Houdini

One of Houdini's key venues was the impressive underground space of the New York Palace called ‘Deep Water’

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

The capital of spy films

In 2017, New York Palace got another major role in the film Atomic Blonde, in which a suite was used to imitate the Parisian hotel where the final showdown took place. In the film, Charlize Theron plays a British intelligence agent who is sent to Berlin to obtain a list of secret agents that the KGB is keen to get their hands on. Budapest makes a great East and West Berlin, where the protagonist tears up the streets among Trabant cars, and where the former building of the Museum of Ethnography and Ferenc Liszt International Airport also have a role.

The New York Palace hotel suite imitates a Paris hotel in the film Atomic Blonde

Photo: Atomszőke

The old building of the Museum of Ethnography appears as one of the locations in Berlin in the film Atomic Blonde

Photo: Atomszőke

Budapest could well be the capital of spy films, as it was the location for most of the 2017 thriller Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence, and, like Houdini, the capital plays both itself and Moscow in the film. We were just scratching our heads when, in one scene, or even in a few steps, the characters touch the Bajza Street tunnel, an underpass on Szentendrei Road and the Fiume Road Graveyard, and then suddenly flee towards the Puskin Cinema. But there was also a funny moment when Budapest was being transformed into the Russian capital, and the protagonist goes from the café on the top floor of the Párisi Department Store on Andrássy Avenue to the airport and then flies from the fake Budapest to the real one. The New York Palace is also featured in the film, where the interior gets the biggest role, portrayed as a restaurant in the scene.

In her red evening gown, Jennifer Lawrence can be seen descending the famous staircase with its twisted marble columns.

Photo: Vörös Veréb

The lavish New York Palace café is expected to appear in several more films

Photo: Anantara New York Palace

It's no coincidence that Budapest is known in film circles as "the Hollywood of Europe", with its Eastern European atmosphere and Western chic, and the capital is the perfect place to step onto the screen in different eras of different countries, thus enhancing its reputation.

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