Written by Shona Smith on Jul 17, 2020. Posted in On Location

Marie Curie biopic RADIOACTIVE filmed in Hungary and Spain

Radioactive is a journey from the 1870s to the modern day which documents Marie Curie’s scientific breakthroughs and their legacies. Locations in Hungary and Spain doubled for diverse settings including Paris, Nevada and Chernobyl.

Rosamund Pike (A Private War, Gone Girl) stars as Curie who meets and marries fellow scientist Pierre Curies, played by Sam Riley (Maleficent, On the Road). Together, the pair discovered radioactivity together for which they jointly won the Nobel Prize in physics, making Marie the first woman in history to do so.

According to production designer Miachael Carlin, "The biggest challenge - and most exciting thing - was making a coherent visual whole out of it, because while it’s a very coherent script, it jumps around in time and place so much - there are 48 different sets - so we had to think about how to glue it all together with a consistent visual language".

Scenes set in Paris span a fifty year timespan so a myriad of Parisian looks were needed. Producer Paul Webster says “Because the film is set in so many epochs and so many different places, we made a decision early on not to make the film in Paris…you can shoot late 19th Century and early 20th Century “Parisian” interiors more easily in Budapest than in Paris. There’s more freedom. The city dates from the same era as Paris - Pest was built in the 19th Century by some of the same architects - and there are a great variety of locations".

The former headquarters of the national Hungarian railways (MAV) was one key location in Budapest. The imposing building’s endless corridors and a maze of rooms which became the production's main interior location. “We created a hospital complex where you can seamlessly go from 1874 Poland through a door into 1960s America, and then through another door into the hospital ward in Pripyat near Chernobyl, after the explosion in 1986, and then through another door, through a part of Chernobyl now, and down this enormous corridor – 120 meters of corridor – which is where her death plays out and the end of the film happens" explains Carlin.

The corridors of the hospital were mirrored in the several tunnels that feature in the film, including in metal tunnels in the Chernobyl plant and the tunnel as Marie Curie buries her mother as a child in Poland in the 1870s. "There's the language of the hospital which we spread through the rest of the film which brings it all together visually,” Carlin adds.

Webster notes that “The extraordinary MAV building, which we used for the hospital scenes, was like having your own film studio in the centre of town. Budapest is a very film friendly place to work”. Budapest’s studios was also utilised by the film where the scenes of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster were filmed.

A portion of the film shot in Spain, where Almeria in southern Spain was used for the atom bomb testing scenes set in Nevada Desert, Utah.

Hungary’s 30% tax rebate is offered to film and TV productions. Studios in Hungary are up and running again and are expecting big feature films including Dune, The Nightingale and Halo to return to film after coronavirus disrupted production.

Spain has increased the incentive provided to incoming productions. Now those meeting the EUR1 million spend threshold can access a 30% tax rebate. The new rebate was introduced as Spain emerged from lockdown, and is hoped to attract more post-pandemic production.

Image Credits: STUDIOCANAL / Amazon Studios

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