Hollywood is full of stars with Hungarian roots. Some whose surnames are a giveaway, but others you wouldn’t even suspect are Hungarian.
Most Hungarians are familiar with the situation. You’re in some remote corner of the world, thousands of kilometres from Hungary, and a Hungarian word strikes your ear. You can run into Hungarians everywhere because, they are everywhere. Even in Hollywood. In fact, there’s the famous saying that Hollywood was founded by Hungarians. Even though the Hungarian-dominated era of the 1930s is long gone, you can still find more than one or two stars with Hungarian roots.
Here are the most known one’s:
Béla Lugosi, the Hungarian-American actor famous for portraying Count Dracula in the original film made in 1931, was born in 1882 in Lugos (then Hungary, but now Romania) as Béla Blaskó. At the age of 12, he dropped out of school and began acting in theatres around the country.
Due to his activism in the Communist Revolution of 1919, he was forced to leave Hungary. As a result, he emigrated to the United States in 1920 to continue his acting career in New York. He adopted the name of his hometown and became Béla Lugosi.
In 1927, Lugosi starred in a Broadway adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. It ran for three years in the theater and was later adapted to screen by Tod Browning in 1931, establishing Béla Lugosi as one of the screen’s greatest antagonists. In the 1940s, Lugosi starred in countless horror films including “Black Cat”, “The Raven”, “The Ghost of Frankenstein”, “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”, and “Frankenstein’s Son”.
Despite his success, Lugosi’s reputation declined rapidly in the following years, primarily because he rejected several roles handed to him by directors and scriptwriters. “The King of Horror” died in 1956 at the age of 73. He was buried wearing a Dracula costume. However, contrary to the rumors, he never asked to be buried in it, but his son and fifth wife believed it to be his wish.
The American actor, most famous for portraying Detective Columbo in the legendary TV show, was born in 1927 in New York. Although his parents were American bookkeepers, the family had Eastern-European-Jewish origin, including Czech and Russian, and his maternal grandfather, Peter Hochhauser, was born in Budapest.
Rumour has it that Falk’s great-grandfather was Miksa Falk, a 19th-century Hungarian politician, and writer–there is even a statue of him in Falk Miksa street in Budapest’s 5th district. However, apart from their identical surnames, Hungarian family tree researchers have found no evidence to support this claim.
The actor began his career on Broadway at the age of 29 after quitting his previous job. Later on, he moved to Hollywood and appeared in numerous films including “The Princess Bride”, “A Woman Under the Influence”, and “Murder by Death”, as well as many television guest roles.
He was nominated for an Academy Award twice and won the Golden Globe award once. However, it was the role of “Columbo” that brought him success, a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and several awards, including four Emmys.
Drew Barrymore was born in California to American actor John Drew Barrymore and Hungarian aspiring actress Ildikó Jaid Makó. Barrymore’s mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany, where her musician parents fled after World War II. Barrymore is the goddaughter of Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg and actress Sophia Loren.
Since melting audiences’ hearts at the age of six in Steven Spielberg’s beloved sci-fi blockbuster, “E. T.”, Drew Barrymore has emerged as one of the most endearing and talented actresses of her generation. After her parents divorced when she was nine, she had many troubled years wherein she smoked, drank alcohol, and struggled with drug addiction.
With a string of “bad-girl” roles under her belt, Barrymore’s star was officially on the rise during the mid-1990s and she received awards from both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. She later earned a star on the Walk of Fame (2004) and began directing and producing several films. She once said in an interview with Hungarian magazine Nők Lapja that she’d like to discover her Hungarian roots. In fact, whenever she meets a Hungarian, she tells them that she, too, is Hungarian.
Elsa Pataky is a woman of many types of blood: her father is Spanish and her mother is Romanian. And Chris Hemsworth‘s wife is named after her Hungarian grandmother. She said in a Hungarian interview in 2011: „My maternal grandmother was born in Hungary and my grandfather was an actor in Transylvania. I have only been to your country once. I was in Budapest for a short time with my dad and I remember how wonderful the city is. I was sixteen at the time.”
Elsa Pataky was born in Madrid on the 18th of July 1976 to José Francisco Lafuente, a Spanish biochemist, and Cristina Pataky Medianu, a Transylvanian Hungarian-born publicist. She studied journalism at the Universidad de San Pablo. Elsa Pataky then became a member of a Madrid theatre company, Teatro Cámara de Ángel Gutiérrez.
She left school when she got her first series, „Al Sair de clase”, between 1997 and 1998. After the success of this film, in 2000 she received the first film of her life, „El Arte de Morir”. That same year, she also starred in the film „Queen of Swords”, where she played Senora Vera Hidalgo.
The name Weisz is suspicious in itself, but a closer look at Rachel Weisz‘s family tree reveals that the 50-year-old actress, despite her London birth, does have Hungarian roots. Her father, the inventor György Weisz, who died last year, fled to England to escape Nazi persecution because of his Jewish ancestry, and it was there that the Oscar– and Golden Globe-winning actress was born.
The breakthrough for Weisz came with Welsh director Sean Mathias‘ 1995 play “Design For Living”, directed by Noel Coward. After small roles on television, her first film role was in “Chain Reaction” with Keanu Reeves.
He then appeared in several English films and in 1999 he was cast in István Szabó‘s “The Taste of Sunshine”. The film “The Mummy”, with Brendan Fraser, brought him international attention. He went on to star in films such as “Constantine” and “The Constant Gardener”, for which she won Oscars and Golden Globes, and was also awarded a BAFTA and the London Film Critics’ Award.
Mariska Hargitay is one of the highest-paid actresses. Few may know that the star is half Hungarian. She is the daughter of bodybuilder and actor Mickey Hargitay and actress Jayne Mansfield. Miklós Hargitay, was born in Budapest. He later emigrated to the United States to pursue a career as a bodybuilder, winning the title of Mr. Universe in 1955.
Mariska spoke Hungarian at home with her dad from a young age. Hargitay made her film debut in the 1985 horror-comedy film “Ghoulies” and her major television debut in the 1986 adventure drama series “Downtown”.
She appeared in numerous roles in film and on television throughout the late 1980s and 1990s before having her breakthrough for starring as Olivia Benson on the NBC drama series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (1999–present), for which she has received several accolades, including a Primetime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Outside of acting, Hargitay founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization that provides support to people who have been sexually abused.