Anna Friel Bloodbath


Written by Hannah Grantz
02 Thursday 02nd December 2010

Allegedly the most prolific female serial killer who ever lived, Countess Elizabeth Bathory racked up anywhere between 80 and 650 murders (depending on your source) over a 20 year period. She was said to have tortured the daughters of peasants mercilessly before bathing in their virginal blood to retain her youth. Another version of the story paints her as a remarkably well-educated woman, and a Protestant under a Catholic king (who owed her family money) who found herself subject of a jealous character assassination to remove her from power. She did not appear at the trial, and thus there is no record of a confession, only allegations from her staff. 

Juraj Jakubisko fifteenth feature film Bathory tells the tale of the legendary noble, with Anna Friel in the titular role. Here she tells us about being set on fire during filming, and why using blood as bubble bath is a bad idea.

Although her guilt had never been proven, Bathory was put on house arrest and imprisoned in Cachtice Castle where she died four years later. In Jakubisko’s adaptation of the Countess’ true story, Anna Friel stars as the murderess herself. In an interview with Friel, she clues us in on the a lesser-known side of Elizabeth Bathory (or Báthory Erzsébet to give her Hungarian name).

How do you feel about Erzsébet Báthory as a character?
Erzsébet Bathory, as a character, is the most wonderful part that any actress can wish to play. She goes through everything and she does everything from riding in beautiful carriages to fencing and horse riding. She’s a heroic and strong character in the truest sense of the word heroine. And she’s very warrior-like, full of passion and a great lover.

Has working on the film changed your perception of Erzsébet Báthory?
Well there are two sides of every story. The exciting part of the project was that there is a standard perception about her - what everyone else believes is that Erzsébet Bathory was a blood-thirsty vampire, or a widow who bathed in peoples blood. I think in this film we gave her much more intelligence. She was a woman who knew a lot about medicine, who was very well read, who spoke many languages and I think she was far too intelligent to bathe in blood. Blood clots and thickens so it would be difficult to bathe in it, and you wouldn’t have benefits from bathing in it. And I felt she was very, very unsettled by so many strong men around her. I think this film tells a more realistic story.


Can you recall the most difficult moment?
There have been many difficult moments on this film because it was such a big production. I think I lost my temper when I was almost set on fire in Erzsébet’s final scene. That was difficult.
How did that come about?
The set was prepared and I was meant to sing the entire song – a hymn, and Juraj said: “when we get to the end of the song and the room is still alight, then start to sing the song again.” I had the words of the song taped to the ceiling above my bed, because it was very difficult song with Slovakian words and I had to slightly change the song the night before. Everything was rushed and very quickly the whole room just went “woosh!” In fact I barely had two words out of my mouth and I couldn’t actually feel my face. It was so hot that I put my hands over my face, and I believe it was left in the film like that.


Bathory is released 3 December. For more info, visit the official site

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