Crack of dawn football practices, a law degree, and eventually acting. Today Szabolcs Thuróczy acts in 19 different plays with Béla Pintér & Company at Szkéné, and Átrium. He landed his first film role 14 years ago, and feature film and film series roles have been pouring in ever since. 

It’s been years since I saw someone whistling while walking down the street. And with such natural grace. He is a well-balanced, charismatic person who couldn’t have chosen a better profession.

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What is your dearest and most instructive experience as an actor?

Twenty years ago I was part of Wyspiański’s November Night at the Szolnok Theatre where I played a satyr. My parents came to see the play and they got very worried about their son’s future. They wanted me to pursue law. The then-director Erzsébet Gaál – who actually attracted me to theatre – chose me for the role, and told my parents to be more patient, because this kid has a lot of talent, but needs some time to ripen. She was so convincing that they believed her. I hope they are happy at last that I chose this profession.

Do you have a role model or a dream role?

The Hungarian acting scene is really rich. I love the classic epic movies by the big Hungarian directors, and there have been, and still are, a lot of great Hungarian actors. I love to watch Dezső Garas, Antal Páger, György Kálmán, Lajos Őze, Latinovits, Ádám Szirtes, János Görbe, János Rajz, and László Márkus. So Hungarian culture is amazing, and these movies were all sensational. I could watch Antal Páger in the Ranódy movie Pacsirta a hundred times and still be able to find new things in it.

You can also find wonderful actors in foreign films. Javier Bardem plays with an unbelievable suggestivity. He is and idol of mine, if you could say that, who makes exceptionally good decisions when it comes to choosing roles. He can be light and elegant, but he can also be deep if needed, so I would say he is a perfect actor.

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Did personal experiences or your life stories inspire any of your films or roles?

I spent a lot of time with Béla Pintér in the last 20 years and he used a lot of my stories. I mean he knows a lot about me, and he built a lot of those into my characters. It inspires him even today. He keeps building on them to create new characters and situations, which I’m very happy about.

I have a very deep and serious film relationship with Attila Till. We are working on our third film together. He takes my opinions seriously, pays attention to my improvised spiels, and open to my vocabulary. Whatever he likes, he builds into my roles. This is great. This is what makes you feel like it’s yours, and this is how you can become one with the role.

This close relationship with Béla Pintér dates back to the beginnings of your career. How did it start?

We first met in 1955, when we left Szolnok. We were both cast for the play Mizantróp. Later we played in Snow White together, and that’s when it was decided that we will do something together in the future. He started to turn his visions into reality. His first play was a surreal mix of a brutal wedding party, and a death race. From that point we did something together every year. Parasztopera was the big break in 2002. It was epoch-making. We played it over 300 times and we still play it ’til this day. It traveled half of the world. From then on, Béla was unavoidable. He became the daredevil of theatre. Now, out of his 19 plays, I play in all 19 of them.

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What do you like about film, that is not present in theatre?

I love that I can just throw out the lines I learned at the end of each day.

I love this “instant-burning” in film. I love that the amount of lines I learn one day can be thrown out at the end of that very same day, which makes way in my head for the new lines the next day. I feel like I have to be good, fast. I think only self-analogous and self-aware people can do this right. Obviously you need persuasive power, you have to be camera-sensitive, know what’s too much or too little. This way they won’t give you unnecessary instructions, because they know that you know what to do.

In the theatre we still rehearse before each show. You can shape it, fine-tune it for years. It’s a very sensitive genre, the viewers are close, and every trick and mistake is visible. Both (film and theatre) have their wonderful advantages. Theatre is more tiring for the nerves in the long-run. Film elapses. In film you have to pull the energy together and then release it, and in theatre this is the everyday stress. And as you get older, you don’t get more confident, you get more uncertain. I heard it from many older actors, that they go haywire from small things which they wouldn’t have even noticed 20 years ago.

You have a striking voice and strong appearance, which usually define your roles. What’s the character you weren’t cast for yet but would love to play?

In films I played gay cop, idiotic bully, sadistic father… Now, in Attila Till’s new movie “Tiszta Szívvel” I’m playing a big hero. I can’t really explain what kind of hero is this, and perhaps it’s very hard to write a better role than this. So I think I got the character I wanted in film.

On stage I was a 10 year old kid, old woman, orphan father… everything really. These were all written by Béla. I would really love to play in a classical play, which I used to do earlier in my life, but not lately. I’d love to play in Chekhov’s Seagull. I really love Chekov. Who knows what life will bring.

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The shooting of Tisza Szívvel started back in September. Being in a wheelchair, even for a short time, was very hard for me. How did you handle this kind of restriction on set?

I was trying to look at it from a useful angle. Half a year before the shooting I started to go to the Marczibányi Rehabilitation Institue. A movement therapist worked with me for 3 months there. I saw all kinds of people and fates there; there was someone who controlled his chair with his mouth, someone else who had just been in an accident. These things became daily sights, and they became somewhat natural.

They didn’t understand that I get in and out of the chair – is this a bad joke? When I told them that I’m preparing for a role they helped me. It’s not easy to sit up in bed when your legs don’t work. These movements helped me a lot. I now also know the difference between a 4, 8, and 12 cm curb. Transportation and getting around is difficult. I experienced a lot of things and it’s incredible how hard their lives are. Many of them don’t even leave their flat. We are at a very early stage when it comes to disability and need to improve a great deal.

I practiced a lot. I was unbeatable in wheelies, and I tried a lot of things. I had the advantage of not being afraid of falling back. Most of them are scared of that, but you get roughnecks like the other main lead in the movie, Zoli Fenyvesi, who does Marathons. But that’s rare.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ÁDÁM ERDÉSZ