, was an American actor.
Tom Hulce, who portrayed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was an American performer.
I had a strong desire to play the role of Younger Brother in Miloš Forman’s previous film titled Ragtime. However, my previous interactions with him were unsuccessful. When I auditioned for Amadeus, I spent the entire day reading lines against other actors who were auditioning for different roles. I observed that Forman was dismissive towards those I found intriguing, but kind towards those who I believed had little chance. In order to catch his attention, I strategically decided to act like a difficult person. After eight hours, he simply said, “Yeah. You can go now.”
I attended numerous piano lessons until I reached my limit. F Murray Abraham, known for his role as Salieri, watched with me as Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields recorded at Abbey Road in London. Neville invited me to immerse myself in the orchestra, giving me a firsthand experience of being surrounded by the music.
During filming, I would be pretending to play a keyboard without making any sound while the music was either being played on set or, if there was speaking, transmitted to me through a concealed earpiece. The scenes where I improvised Salieri’s march while speaking over my shoulder and played upside down were especially nerve-wracking. It felt like performing stunts.
John McEnroe served as a role model for me – I was seeking individuals who displayed behaviors that didn’t hint at their extraordinary abilities. I particularly favored unconventional wigs, but it was changing my hair color that had the most notable impact on my personality. When I dyed it a bright New York taxicab yellow, I became much more outgoing. Nevertheless, it took a whole bottle of Jack Daniel’s for me to develop Mozart’s iconic laugh. Miloš advised me that my initial idea wasn’t bold enough, so I experimented with countless others until I found something similar to someone I knew. Mozart was highly intelligent, but his laughter made him seem foolish.
Miloš was deeply troubled by the scene in which Mozart instructs Salieri on the requiem – it was unlike anything seen in cinema before, with just two characters reciting musical notation. To demonstrate, we had Neville Marriner and one of his colleagues read the script, but it did not turn out well. Miloš ultimately chose to film the scene with only two cameras, ensuring that any action on one side was mirrored by a reaction shot. Without informing Miloš or Murray, I intentionally withheld information, causing Murray to struggle and fulfilling my hidden agenda.
While filming in Prague during the time of communist control, we were always being watched. When we went out to eat, we would inform our followers how long we planned to stay at the restaurant. Initially, Meg Tilly was cast to play Mozart’s wife Constanze and we were fortunate enough to stay in the same apartment where they once lived for a weekend. During a friendly game of soccer with the crew, Meg tore her tendon. Due to limited shooting time and space, she had to be replaced.
Miloš aimed to make the Mozarts feel like unfamiliar Americans in Vienna, and Elizabeth Berridge, who replaced Meg after her injury, portrayed Constanze brilliantly. I had to consciously avoid slipping into an English accent, as it seemed more fitting for Peter Shaffer’s writing style. Interestingly, when the film was released, American critics struggled the most to accept my American accent. They were only familiar with my role in Animal House and viewed my portrayal of Mozart as the limit of my abilities as an American actor.
Michael Chandler is a professional film editor.
I have experience in creating documentaries, so I wasn’t overwhelmed by the amount of footage. From the beginning, Miloš expressed that if he could do it alone, he wouldn’t need me – he wanted me to surprise him. This allowed me to have creative freedom and try new things.
He requested that I revise the introduction, where Salieri loudly calls out Mozart’s name from a window, as it felt too obvious. I discovered several moments of vacant, cobblestoned streets in Prague and incorporated them with Salieri’s voiceover. These scenes were not originally intended for use, but they created a more powerful opening.
We encountered a different issue towards the end – we needed to transition from the grandeur of Mozart’s funeral back to Salieri’s conversation with the priest, which concluded the film. No matter what we tried, Miloš was unsatisfied. Finally, I decided to take a sarcastic laugh that Salieri does later in the scene and move it to the beginning, disrupting the emotional moment of people crying, the climax of Mozart’s Lacrimosa, and the burial of his grave: “Ha ha ha!” The laugh insults the audience and smoothly leads us into the next scene. This is where our documentary skills came into play – sifting through footage and repurposing these small moments.
I am sorry to have to play the role of the villain, but I must express that I am not fond of this particular scene. It is hindering our progress. It took us half a year to reach a rough cut of three and a half hours, and another six months to edit it down to two and a half hours. We had to remove many impressive scenes, such as those featuring Kenneth McMillan as Schlumberg, whose character Mozart attempts to teach amidst disruptive dogs. Miloš apologized to him and later included his scenes in the director’s cut.
Once the film was completed, Miloš suggested that in the last scene, as the older Salieri is being wheeled through the asylum while a beautiful piano concerto plays, we should hear Mozart’s distinctive high-pitched laugh one last time before the credits. However, we did not have a recorded laugh that would fit in that moment, so we had to bring Tom back in. Initially, he struggled to recreate the signature sound that came easily during production and said, “I cannot do it!” But eventually, we were able to achieve the desired outcome.
The part in the movie where Mozart is dictating his requiem to Salieri while on his deathbed is a standout moment. Surprisingly, one of the takes we used was actually a mistake – there was an issue with the earpiece that was relaying the music to Tom so he could sing in the correct key and tempo. However, this mistake ended up working in our favor as it added to the intensity of the scene, making it appear as if Mozart was desperately reaching for something. In reality, Tom was simply waiting for his cue.
Always keep the music in your mind, maintaining its rhythm or going against it, while ensuring that it remains the main focus. It was the most amazing film experience I’ve ever had. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Miloš, a truly brilliant individual. I have never witnessed someone possess such mastery in all aspects of film production.