The Borgias – a small Hungarian village playing Florence, the Vatican & Rome

Apr 5, 2019

The Borgias became immediately popular after Jeremy Irons took the role of Pope Alexander VI. But the show’s success had other factors too – and it has to do with the Hungarian film industry.

About the show

The creator of the critically acclaimed series The Borgias is Irishman Neil Jordan – he has written, directed and also produced the show. He dreamed the 15th-century version of The Godfather, focusing on the character of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who cheats his way into becoming Pope Alexander VI. Jordan wanted to create a movie, but after consulting with other industry professionals (including Steven Spielberg) he was convinced that there are many storylines in his vision, so he pitched his idea as a television series.

Long Hungarian summers

Production was brought to Korda Studios in Etyek, Hungary mainly because of finances and the long summer, which was crucial in manufacturing the Mediterranean hot atmosphere.

“There’s a great tradition of filmmaking here,” says James Flynn, executive producer of the Borgias, “It had to be in Europe because it’s a European-Canadian co-production and because the period is done so well here. Hungary was the best creative location and it competed with the others in terms of tax breaks.
The Borgias was one of the first biggest productions which was brought to Hungary after the change of law in 2004 which generously subsidizes foreign productions.

Korda Studios as Renaissance Italy

The budget for the 9 episodes of first season was $45 million. It definitely looked very luxurious and authentic. The production designer was Francois Seguin, who created the impressive sets of St. Peter’s Square, 15th-century Roman streets, and the Vatican library – they were all built by Hungarian construction crews.
The crew consisted of 230 people of which 60 crew members were Hungarian, and language barrier was famously rare. “With a few exceptions, the whole crew speaks English.” said the executive producer, James Flynn.
In my previous article I mentioned Evita as a movie which paved the way in some sort for the Hungarian movie industry. The Borgias played a similar role but as a series and in a new era, the late 2000s. Without Borgias probably there would be no Die Hard 5 or Blade Runner 2049 have shot in Hungary.