Eszterhas Heads To The Olympics

...To make a film about water polo

by Willow Green |
Published on

It's a dangerous sport, water polo. Why, last time Empire played we had two ponies drowned under us!* But no water polo match was ever more dangerous than the Olympic semi-final in 1956, when the game reached the depths of savagery that Prince Charles can only dream about and the pool ran red with blood. And now thriller scribe Joe Eszterhas is making the story of the contest into a film. The match was something of a grudge match between Hungary and the USSR. Actually, that's an understatement. The Olympics closely followed the disastrous October 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which the USSR violently ended by killing between 25,000 and 50,000 Hungarians (this being a totalitarian regime, official figures and estimates differ widely). The Hungarian team was, understandably, in no mood for compromise when they attended the Melbourne Olympics one month later and faced the country responsible for their defeat. "We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for every Hungarian," 20-year-old star forward Ervin Zador (pictured above) said afterward. "This game was the only way we could fight back." The story of the climactic match and the revolution behind it will be told in a new, as yet untitled, film being developed by writer / producer Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct) and producer Andrew Vajna (T3; Evita), who are both Hungarian born. They are planning to shoot the story in Hungarian and (partly) in Hungary, making it all a very patriotic affair. And even if the "running red with blood" bit sounds like business as usual for Eszterhas, the rest has the potential to be rather more thoughtful than his usual chicks-with-icepicks fodder. Think a sort of Hungarian Cool Runnings meets Battleship Potemkin. With Spielberg also planning a film about a bygone Olympics where politics touched sport (the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 1972), this could be the start of a whole new sub-genre. Incidentally, Hungary is the current Olympic Water Polo Champion, having successfully defended its title this year in Athens. In fact, they've won the title more often than any other nation, but we are not going to give away the ending by telling you if they won in 1956. OK, they won. But we're not going to tell you the score. OK, it was 4-0 when the game was stopped a minute before the end due to an incipient riot in the stands. But not another word from us about the fact that Hungary went on to beat Yugoslavia in the finals and defend their Olympic gold. The film is being prepared for an expected release late in 2006, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Revolution and the Games. Hopefully, we'll see it in this country soon afterwards. *Thanks to Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot for that joke.

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