On September 6, 1984, Miloš Forman’s American film Amadeus had its world premiere in Westwood, California.
This one of the most successful pictures of world cinema received eight Oscars, 13 Oscar nominations and others 32 awards including four Golden Globes. Part of its filming also took place in the then-communist building Czechoslovakia. Exterior scenes and interior non-studio scenes were shot mostly in Prague and in Kroměříž, for example in Prague’s State Theatre, Karlín Invalidovna, Nerudová Street, Střelecká Island, Vyšehrad, Valdštejnská Garden, Maltézské náměstí, the park in Veltrusy, the Archbishop’s Castle Kroměříž, the cemetery in Horní Beřkovice. Some Czech actors also played secondary and episodic roles in the film. In addition to Czechoslovakia, it was also filmed in France and Austria.
For the material about Mozart, the director Miloš Forman he basically got it by accident. In November 1979, he saw the world premiere of the play in London Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus and the story of two composers, the clash of a mediocre and a genius artist, appealed to him. He immediately decided that the play was an excellent subject for his next film. An unconventional treatment of the feud between a genius composer by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his rival Antonio Salieri had in United States premiere in September 1984, eight Oscars followed in March of the following year, and it was not until 1986 that viewers in our country had the opportunity to see them. In 2002, Forman presented the so-called director’s version in Prague, to which he added cut scenes.
The idea of filming in Prague occurred to Miloš Forman practically at the moment when he decided to film Amadeo. Although the American producers agreed with the plan, the problem arose on the Czechoslovak side; the communist regime was convinced only when the communists calculated that the staff in Prague would spend several million US dollars. In addition, Miloš Forman had to promise the then central director of Czechoslovak film Purš that he would not actively seek out dissidents during filming.
Even so, the negotiations dragged on for so long that the producers pressured Forman to choose alternative locations instead of locations in Czechoslovakia. Most of the interiors are real places in Prague. Only four had to be built: the asylum, Mozart’s apartment, the staircase and part of the theater.
Other problems arose with the filming of scenes that were supposed to take place directly in Estate theater. The director of the theater, the forged comrade Jiří Pauer, stubbornly refused to let the “traitor of the republic” Miloš Forman set foot there. The dispute lasted almost a year and was resolved only by the direct intervention of the Ministry of Culture.
Filming in the Estates Theater was not easy, footage from the concerts was filmed without electric lights, partly because of the atmosphere and historical accuracy, but also because the historic theater building did not have a high-voltage electrical network for energy-intensive film lights. However, the management of the theater did not allow it to be installed out of fear that it might damage the theater building. The premises were therefore lit by a large number of candles, which, of course, required the presence of a higher number of firemen in reserve; so tall that it would be almost impossible to hide them all during filming, so they were given historical costumes and the firemen played extras along with the other spectators. The lighting also made wrinkles for the cameraman Miroslav Ondříček, who had to choose a suitable camera lens for a long time in order to suppress unwanted effects when shooting scenes by candlelight. In addition, he did not have the opportunity to monitor the results of his work, because the filmed materials were sent to laboratories in the USA for processing.
It was also filmed in the residence of the Archbishop of Prague. Here the StB tried to complicate the shooting of the film by providing Cardinal František Tomášek with false information about what kind of film was to be shot there. However, when the cardinal met Forman in person and found out that it was a film about Mozart, the director got permission to shoot…
Interesting facts about the film
- A Czech musicologist and columnist participated in the film as a historical advisor and music expert Zdenek Mahler, although he was not featured in the credits. He also took part in the filming itself and played a small silent role of the cardinal. It is said that when he and Vladimír Svitaček, who portrayed the Pope, were returning to Barrandov in costume, they blessed passers-by from the car window for fun. The news then spread around Prague that it was a secret visit of the real Pope John Paul II, who happened to be visiting Poland at the time.
- Little Wolfgang Amadeus in the scenes where his father demonstrates his blindfolded piano playing skills was played by a young Czech pianist at the time Miroslav Sekeratoday’s successful piano virtuoso.
- In the film, a number of samples from the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are heard, however, in the scene when Salieri walks through the hall looking for Mozart, music composed by a well-known Czech composer and conductor is played Jaroslav Krček.
- Representatives of both rival composers – Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and Mozart (Tom Hulce) learned to conduct the orchestra by copying the movements of the English conductor Neville Marrinerwhich they had available on video.
- F. Murray Abraham originally auditioned for the small role of a theater owner. At that moment, however, Miloš Forman needed someone to read Salieri’s lines for the applicants for the role of Mozart, and Forman found Abraham’s performance so convincing and relaxed that he immediately cast Antonio Salieri in the role.
- O the role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was eventually played by Tom Hulce, Mel Gibson, Mick Jagger, Sam Waterston and Tim Curry, who played this role on Broadway at the time, also applied. Kenneth Branagh “triumphantly” passed the casting, but a few weeks later the producers decided that they wanted a purely American cast.
- Tom Hulce he practiced the piano for four hours a day to make his piano scenes in the film look believable.
- Unmistakable Mozart’s laughperformed so perfectly by Tom Hulce, was created based on contemporary recordings and references that described the composer’s laugh as “when you run metal over glass“.
- After the premiere of the film, Amadeus grew in the US sale of gramophone records with Mozart’s music by 30%.