Prisoner of Rio

1988

In the seductive haunts of Rio de Janeiro hides the world’s most wanted man, the Great Train Robber, Ronald Biggs.

Scotland Yard has never gotten over it. He’s eluded them, outwitted them, embarrassed them. After years of searching, they uncover his hideout and send superintendent Jack McFarland, to bring Biggs back to Wandsworth prison. But his task is not an easy one – he has to kidnap the robber since Great Britain and Brazil haven’t signed an extradition treaty. Slipper’s botched efforts, entangled with the preparations for the Carnival, make him break the law in the name of law and from the hunter, he becomes the hunted. This is Brazil, Rio, “the city that seduces like a beautiful woman” and, as the samba lyrics go, “a world turned upside down”.

Majewski spent two years in Rio writing the screenplay with Ronald Biggs then producing and directing the film. Paul Freeman, a suave villain in Spielberg’s Raiders of the lost Ark, plays the robber, while the Scotland Yard ace is portrayed by Steven Berkoff, a cult English actor and playwright. Also starring are: Peter Firth, Desmond Llewelyn (“O” in the James Bond movies), Florinda Bolkan (famous from Luchino Visconti films), Zeze Mota (queen of Brazilian samba) and Breno Mello (legendary Black Orpheus).

The score is by Louis Bonfa (also of Black Orpheus fame) and debuting Hans Zimmer, for whom Prisoner of Rio is the launching pad for his Hollywood career. During Cannes Film Festival in 1988 Columbia-TriStar picks up the film for worldwide distribution and the Carnival sequence became a permanent showcase at the Brazilian Pavilion at Disneyland in Florida.

with Paul Freeman (Ronald Biggs), Steven Berkoff (MacFarland), Florinda Bolkan (Stella), Peter Firth (Clive Ingram), Desmond Llewelyn (Chief Constable), José Wilker (Salo), Breno Mello (Silencio), Zezé Motta (Rita), Breno Moroni (Gilo), Nice Meirelles (Raimunda), Meran Vargens (Lulu), Ronald Biggs (Mickey), Elke Maravilha (Frank), Chris Heatt (John)

directed by Lech Majewski screenplay Lech Majewski, Ronald Biggs, Julia Frankel cinematography George Mooradian additional cinematography Alec Mills production design Oscar Ramos music Luiz Bonfá, Hans Zimmer, Astrud Gilberto, Luciano Perrone, Denise Rich producers Lech Majewski, Juliusz Kossakowski, Mark Slater, Eddie Egloff, Roberto Mann

Screenplays