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‘Opium’ hooks ‘Festen’ star

Szasz pic based on infamous Csath diaries

LONDON — Danish thesp Ulrich Thomsen (“Festen”) has turned to drugs and electric shock therapy in “Opium,” a $3.4 million Bergmanesque drama about writing, sex and insanity currently shooting on location in Hungary.

Helmed by Hungarian Janos Szasz, who scored a best director honor for “Woyzeck” at the 1994 European Film Awards and Un Certain Regard best director gong for “The Witman Boys” in 1997, pic is based on infamous diaries of Geza Csath, the early 20th century psychiatrist and contemporary of Freud and Jung.

Thomsen plays a drug-addicted doctor in a mental asylum who discovers that one of his patience is a gifted scribe. “He falls in love with her writing and ends up stealing her brain,” said the pic’s Hungarian-U.S. producer Andras Hamori, whose company H2O Motion Pictures and Hungarian outfit Hunnia Film are producing in association with Berlin-based Euroarts.

The female lead is played by ethereal Norwegian stage actress Kristin Stubo, whom Szasz had worked with before on a theater production. “It’s a complete coincidence that the two leads are played by Scandinavians,” said Hamori, who financed the film through various Hungarian subsidies including tax credit, Eurimages coin and money from Euroarts.

“Janos is very important filmmaker and I’ve wanted to work with him for years,” Hamori added. “We exchanged a number to scripts, but ‘Opium’ grabbed me because it breaks a lot of taboos and it’s intellectual and sensual at the same time.”

Production is taking place in the northern Hungarian town of Komarom, where real inmates for the local mental asylum are being used as extras. Says Hamori said, “It’s interesting. It feels like it’s almost therapeutic for them because they’re mingling with the cast and crew and are treated like everybody else.”

Hamori is producing with Pal Sandor. Tibor Krsko and Bernd Hellthaler are acting as exec producers, Tracy Brimm and Kate Myers are co-producers.

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