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- Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Hungarian-American film producer Andy Vajna dies at 74
- BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP)
Andy Vajna, a Hungarian-American film producer who worked on several "Rambo" films with Sylvester Stallone as well as Madonna's "Evita," has died. He was 74.
Vajna, who produced many other films, died Sunday at his Budapest home after a long illness, Hungary's National Film Fund said.
Vajna was also owner of the TV2 Group, a Hungarian company which owns several television channels, including TV2, one of Hungary's two main broadcasters and politically aligned closely with Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government.
"We are bidding farewell to the greatest Hungarian film producer," Orban posted on his Facebook page. "Hasta la vista, Andy! Thank you for everything, my friend!"
Since 2011, Vajna had been a commissioner in the Orban government, in charge of developing Hungary's film industry.
Hungarian films have won several top prizes at recent international festivals. In 2016, "Son of Saul," financed mostly by Hungary's National Film Fund, won the Oscar for best foreign language film.
Vajna, who enjoyed a state-granted monopolistic concession on Budapest casinos, was recently listed by the Hungarian edition of Forbes magazine as the 18th richest Hungarian, with a net worth estimated at nearly $240 million.
The producer was born Andras Gyorgy Vajna in Budapest on Aug. 1, 1944, and escaped Hungary's communist regime in 1956 with help from the International Red Cross. After some time in Canada, he was reunited with his family in Los Angeles.
After studying at UCLA, Vajna operated cinemas in Hong Kong, where he also established a successful wig-making company.
In the mid-1970s, Vajna set up Carolco, a film production firm, with Mario Kassar. Besides the Rambo series, the two men were also behind films like "Victory" — starring Stallone, Michael Caine and Pele; "Red Heat" and "Total Recall," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and "Angel Heart" and "Johnny Handsome" with Mickey Rourke.
After leaving Carolco in 1989, Vajna's films included "Die Hard with a Vengeance," ''The Scarlet Letter," ''Nixon" and "I Spy."
He also produced several Hungarian films and was co-owner of Korda Studios, in the village of Etyek, near Budapest, where "The Martian," ''Inferno" and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" were filmed.
Late last year, Vajna was among several businesspeople close to Orban who donated most of their media holdings to a non-profit foundation overseen by an Orban ally, a move which put over 470 publications under even closer political control.
Vajna is survived by his wife, Timea.