“Andy Vajna was a dear friend and a revolutionary force in Hollywood. He proved that you don’t need studios to make huge movies like Terminator 2 or Total Recall. He had a huge heart, and he was one of the most generous guys around. I’ll miss him.”
“When you work with Andy, the buck stops with him. I don’t deal with anybody else. It becomes very much Andy’s movie, one singer, one song.”
Danny Cannon, director of Judge Dread
“A very very sad day ... Producer ANDY VAJNA, the man that Made Rambo happened, died today… LOVED this man’s courage - a pioneer. Believed In making FIRST BLOOD when no one else did.…This truly breaks my heart. Rip”
“I decided to learn something that I could do no matter where I lived – I became a hairdresser. I chose hairdressing because it is a useful skill and one that I could always go back to. Knowing this gave me great security and the freedom to explore other avenues.”
Andrew G. Vajna
“Working with Andy was the best experience of my career and he makes the world’s greatest bouillabaisse.”
Steven de Souza, screenwriter Judge Dredd
“When Andy gives you his word, you know it’s good. And no matter how tough the going gets, you can count on him. He’s got nerves of steel.”
Joe Roth, chairman, Walt Disney Motion Picture Group
“Vajna defined what would become known as the ‘big action picture’. He really has a wide range of talent and ability.”
Tim Warner, general chairman of film company NATO / ShoWest
“We’re glad to be a part of your lifetime.”
Bruce Willis and Demi Moore to Andy when he received NATO/ShoWest Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995
“I fell in love in love with Andy the moment I met him, because for once I’d met a Hungarian in Hollywood who was not only more successful than I was, but also crazier.”
“Andy doesn’t compare to anybody else in this business. Andy is unique, he’s independent; he’s a rare blend of entrepreneur and film maker. He puts his money on the line time and time again, and he’s won as big as anyone in this town. You’ve got to admire somebody like that.”
Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dream Works SKG Partner
“Andy Vajna was a great friend and collaborator. He believed in me on one of my toughest shoots, Terminator 2. I will miss him, his humor, class and style, but especially the motorcycle rides.”
“The profession is never boring. I have found the interesting things in everything I have ever done. So none of my occupations ever seemed like work.”
Andrew G. Vajna
“He’s got great respect for the director and courage to do projects that aren’t so easy… He won’t let you down; you can trust him.”
Paul Verhoeven, director of Total Recall
“You can’t make an actor act. You have got to create an atmosphere he wants to perform. It can be hell.”
Andrew G. Vajna
“He’s one of the few people around with the balls to play with his own money. His word carries a lot of weight. He’s personally out on the line. It’s always given me a lot of respect for him. Andy is always involved. He’s your partner or your boss, but he offers guidance as opposed to instructions… He approaches business in a sort of family style. He keeps the same friends for 30 years, and that’s kind of remarkable.”
John McTiernan, director of Medicine Man and Die Hard With a Vengeance
Andy Vajna is one of the most experienced executives and dedicated professional in motion picture industry an expert in financing, developing and marketing of films for worldwide audiences.
Andy Vajna was born in Budapest in 1944. In 1956 at the age of 12, he fled from Hungary and with the support of Red Cross he made his way alone to Canada. He arrived having no friends and speaking no English. Later on he reunited with his parents in Los Angeles who fled Hungary separately. He studied cinematography at University of California (UCLA) and then joined the University’s Educational Motion Picture Department where he worked on different projects.
Preferring being independent Andy Vajna left UCLA to set up his own photo studio, but that venture soon came to end when he broke his leg in a ski accident and business could not operate for 9 months. After his recovery he became a hairdresser and teamed up with a boyhood friend, Gábor Koltai - who was a well-known wig stylist in Hollywood at that time - to produce high quality wigs Vajna moved to Hong Kong where he established his own wig manufacturing company, called Gilda Fashion Finally Vajna sold the firm in 1973. By that time the company employed more than 3000 people.
Vajna launched his career in the entertainment industry with his purchase of motion picture theaters in the Far East. He founded Panasia Films Limited in Hong Kong, a highly profitable venture in the distribution, acquisition and representation of films. After Vajna negotiated the sales of Panasia to Raymond Chow’s Golden Harvest Company in 1976, and met Kassar at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, he and the film producer and industry executive formed Carolco, specializing in sales, financing and distribution of films worldwide. Vajna and Kassar had rented a small office in Melrose Avenue where their desks faced each other in the office and Vajna’s wife and Kassar’s girlfriend were their secretaries. In less than four years, Carolco became one of the top three foreign sales organizations in motion pictures industry.
In 1982, Vajna was a founder and then president of the American Film Marketing Association. During that same year, Vajna and Kassar made their film production debut with Rambo: First Blood, starring Sylvester Stallone. The First Blood became a phenomenal success, grossing $120 million internationally. It also rocketed Carolco into the forefront of independent production companies. Rambo: First Blood Part II was released in 1985, generating more than $300 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable films in the history of moviemaking.
Vajna was executive producer with Mario Kassar on such films such as Alan Parker’s Angel Heart, and Rambo III. Other projects include Music Box, Mountains of the Moon, Total Recall, Air America, Narrow Margin and Jacob’s Ladder.
In December 1989, Vajna sold all his interest in Carolco and formed Cinergi Productions, Inc. to engage in the financing, development, production and distribution of major event motion pictures. As part of its business plan, Cinergi has formed an alliance with The Walt Disney Company for distribution of Cinergi motion pictures in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Vajna’s strategy was to develop long-term relationships with certain talent and produce a steady supply of two to four event motion pictures per year. John McTiernan directed Cinergi’s first production, Medicine Man, starring Oscar winner Sean Connery. Christmas 1993 saw the release of Tombstone, the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday legend starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and directed by George Cosmatos. In 1994, Cinergi released Renaissance Man, starring Danny DeVito and directed by Penny Marshall and Color of Night, starring Bruce Willis and Jane March, directed by Academy Award nominee director Richard Rush.
The summer of 1995 saw the release of two Cinergi productions. The first was Die Hard with a Vengeance which is the third instalment of the highly successful Die Hard series. The film stars Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons and Samuel Jackson and was directed by John McTiernan. To date, the film has grossed over $365 million worldwide. The second summer release was Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone and directed by Danny Cannon. Also in 1995, Cinergi released two more highly anticipated films: The Scarlet Letter starring Demi Moore, Gary Oldman and Robert Duvall, based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of an illicit love in Puritan New England, the film was directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Roland Joffe. The other was Nixon starring Anthony Hopkins as the beleaguered president. The film chronicles the life and controversial career of Richard M. Nixon and was directed by Academy Award winner Oliver Stone. Nixon was released in December and received four academy award nominations.
Another Cinergi release, Evita starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, directed by Alan Parker tells the story of Evita Peron, the wife of Argentina’s former dictator Juan Peron. The film was a commercial success, grossing $141 million worldwide against a budget of $55 million. It has also won the Golden Globe for Best Picture of 1996 as well as the best actress and best original song awards.
Vajna has never forgotten his Hungarian roots and always tried to help the Hungarian film industry. He had a major role in many films being shot in Budapest, such as Evita, Escape to Victory or Red Heat.
He also actively participated in the distribution of Motion Pictures in Hungary eventually having a 70% share of the Hungarian box office. In 1989 Vajna founded InterCom that has become a market-leader and a distributor of many Hollywood studios, including 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Disney and MGM.
He was a producer of the record-breaking Hungarian comedy Out of Order aired in 1997. The film starring the most famous actors in Hungary was an outstanding success. With its 750 000 viewers in cinemas and several millions on TV it broke all the records of Hungarian box office.
In 1998, Andrew Vajna took Cinergi private by buying out the public stockholders. Thereafter, he reteamed with his former partner, Mario Kassar. Their first venture into big budget Hollywood fare again was I, Spy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson shot in Budapest as well.
In 2002 he founded DIGIC Pictures in Hungary which is a high-end animation studio specializing in full 3D animation and visual effects for feature films, commercials and the video game industry and best known for creating fine details and realistic characters as well as world-class rendering in the animated shorts we produce.
In 2003 together with Mario Kassar they produced a film again that is the kind of movie they are so well known for: Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines with Arnold Schwarzenegger was a mega budget action adventure and became a world-wide box office success. DIGIC Pictures also participated in creating visual effects for Terminator 3.
In 2005 Andy Vajna was – together with Quentin Tarantino and Lucy Liu – the executive producer of a feature length documentary called Freedom’s Fury created by Colin Keith Gray and Megan Raney Aarons which showed his renewed interest in the story of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. The movie called The Children of Glory which showed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 was Hungary’s most successful movie in 2006 with more half million viewers.
Since 2011 Andrew G. Vajna has been working as Government Commissioner in charge of the Hungarian film industry. In the same year Andrew G. Vajna conceived Hungarian National Film Fund with the mission to contribute to the production of Hungarian films or co-productions that provide art and entertainment for moviegoers and bring significant success both domestically and on an international level. The Film Fund provides transparent financial and professional support as well as creative cooperation, marketing support, professional expertise and international industry contacts, handling festivals, sales activity and apprentice program.
One of the recent films that received financial support from Hungarian National Film Fund was the year of 2015’s hard-hitting drama, the Son of Saul. The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix. It also won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film becoming the first Hungarian film to win the award. As its biggest achievement, Son of Saul was the 2016 Oscar winner for foreign language category.
Under the Vajna era Hungarian movies financed by the Hungarian National Film Fund won altogether more than 130 international awards while the number of foreign films produced in Hungary increased significantly.