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Rise of the Raven: Shooting of the János Hunyadi Series at the Finish Line

Hungary Today 2023.07.18.

Filming of the ten-part series on John Hunyadi (Governor of Hungary between 1446 and 1453, and a leading commander against the Turks in the 15th century) has reached the finish line. The large-scale production has Hungarian management, large international participation, and a budget of around HUF 10 billion (EUR 27 million), reports Magyar Nemzet.

The Hunyadi series, based on Mór Bán’s novel cycle and supported by the National Film Institute, has been in production since July of last year, following a decade-long preparation phase, writes news portal Origó‘s reporter, who visited the set of the production.

The set is that of a medieval town, occupying about 15,000 square meters and originally built for the 1983 TV drama Hamlet, and having been the setting for such popular international series as Vajak, and The Last Kingdom since then, has been rebuilt for Hunyadi, because although the series was shot in several external locations, for the spectacle of the battle scenes in the castle alone, it was necessary to have realistic, but “destructible sets.” The castle, freshly converted for the scenes in Nándorfehérvár, has a spacious courtyard, stables, but also alleys and other nooks and crannies in its interior, that can be walked around 360 degrees with a camera. Its gable end, covered with the blue panels needed for the later CGI tricks, is lined with the cannon-scarred walls of the citadel, and for example, with life-like models of the carcasses of dead horses, and the set of burnt-out houses of Nándorfehervár, set alight again and again during the filming by means of “film fire” (i.e. by means of skillfully controlled gas pipes guided to the appropriate places for the scene).

Murathan Muslu as Mehmed the Conqueror and Franciska Törőcsik, as the Sultan’s wife, Mara Brankovics. Photo via Facebook/Törőcsik Franciska.

As Origó explains, “In such conditions – extremely demanding in every respect – and with the presence of 200-250 crew members, the climax of the Hunyadi series, the Siege of Nándorfehérvár, the seemingly impossible victory against the three times outnumbered army of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, is filmed.”

“I knew from a very early age why and for whom the bell tolled at noon – my father is a bell ringer and I used to help him in church as a child – and when the opportunity came, I knew it was now or never for me to take on this role,” emphasized Gellért L. Kádár, who plays the role of John Hunyadi.


In May 1456, the Turkish ruler launched an army of hundreds of thousands against Nándorfehérvár (today’s Belgrade), considered the key to the Kingdom of Hungary and a route to the interior of the country. Pope Callixtus III, who became head of the Catholic Church in April 1455, announced a crusade. On June 29, 1456, the Pope issued his prayer bull ‘Cum hiis superioribus annis,’ ordering the whole Christian world to pray for the victory of the Crusader armies. The bull also ordered, among other things, that the bell should be rung three times a day, not only in the morning and evening, but also at noon, so that the faithful could pray for those fighting the Turks.

Photo via Facebook/Novák Katalin

Executive producer Robert Lantos noted that “I might add that the casting process took longer than any other casting process in my career. It took us a year and a half to find the right actors.”

The four leading Hungarian actors – alongside L. Gellért Kádár, Vivien Rujder, who plays the wife of John Hunyadi, Erzsébet Szilágyi, Franciska Törőcsik, who portrays the Sultan’s wife Mara Brankovics, and Balázs Csémy, who plays John the Valiant – unanimously stated that

language learning was a significant part of the preparation. After all, the Hunyadi family and John the Valiant spoke several languages, and therefore, for instance, some diplomatic scenes required the actors to speak the language authentically.

“We had to work with a lot of historical, religious, and other experts, such as linguists, to present the Middle Ages authentically, but nobody should want to graduate based on this series. Not because it is purely about entertainment. Just as with Shakespeare, it’s about the fact that we want to tell a very powerful dramatic story that makes you think, that is about our past but also has something to do with our present. That’s what every single story thread in the series is about,” Balázs Lengyel, the show-runner and one of the directors of the series told the portal.

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Via Magyar Nemzet, Featured image via Facebook/Törőcsik Franciska  

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