The Fear Index: Josh Hartnett and the cast talk ‘challenges’ of filming in Budapest during Covid-19 pandemic - Exclusive

Discover the filming locations, plot, cast, release date, and trailer for The Fear Index, as the cast talk to BT.com about the challenges of filming in Budapest during Covid-19.

By Katie Archer Published: 17 February 2022 - 5.07pm

Watch The Fear Index on Sky Atlantic with a NOW Entertainment Membership from 10 February.

Hit Play above to watch Josh Hartnett & The Fear Index cast talk filming locations & Covid

Fans of Robert Harris’ work won’t want to miss this exciting new adaptation of his bestselling thriller, The Fear Index.

Delving into the murky world of financial markets and dangerous conspiracies, the cast is led by Hollywood star Josh Hartnett and promises edge-of-your-seat viewing.

Here’s all you need to know about what happens, who stars in it, where the show was filmed, and more, ahead of its launch on 10 February on Sky Atlantic and NOW.

Plus, click here to discover more about the filming locations for The Fear Index.

When is The Fear Index on TV?

Watch The Fear Index on Sky Atlantic with a NOW Entertainment Membership from 10 February.

What is The Fear Index?

Josh Harnett in The Fear Index

This thrilling four-part Sky Original adaptation is based on the Robert Harris novel of the same name, bringing with it legions of fans who’ll be keen to see how the world of Dr Alex Hoffman (Josh Hartnett, above) is reimagined for the screen.

Alex is a genius computer scientist who is poised to make a killing in the financial markets alongside his hedge fund business partner and best friend Hugo.

Together, they have created VIXAL-4, an AI-driven programme that exploits fear in the markets and moves at lightning-fast speeds to bring its investors huge returns.

But just as the pair prepare to launch to investors, they are plunged into a nightmare day that has them and everyone else questioning Alex’s sanity.

Arsher Ali
Arsher Ali, who plays Hugo in The Fear Index

In Geneva’s financial district, Alex encounters a man who inexplicably knows all of his security codes, and as more strange incidents occur he begins to suspect that he is being framed.

However, as secrets from his past begin to surface, the questions about Alex losing his mind grow even greater.

Detective Leclerc struggles to work out the former CERN scientist, his artist wife Gabby finally seems to have reached the end of her patience, and all Hugo cares about is the billions he stands to lose if they don’t sort out their launch.

Alex finds himself stuck in a lonely and confusing existence with high stakes and a mystery that’s almost impossible to crack, even for him.

Read our exclusive interview with the cast and crew of The Fear Index >

Who's in the cast of The Fear Index?

Gregory Montel
Gregory Montel, who plays Detective Leclerc in The Fear Index

Josh Hartnett features as lead character Dr Alex Hoffman. The actor is best known for the films Pearl Harbor, 40 Days and 40 Nights, and Lucky Number Slevin, as well as his star turn in TV series Penny Dreadful.

Arsher Ali (The Ritual, Informer) plays best friend Hugo, Leila Farzad (I Hate Suzie, Innocent) is Alex’s wife Gabby, and Gregory Montel (Call My Agent) plays Detective Leclerc.

Is there a trailer?

There is. Get a taste of the tension by watching the trailer for The Fear Index:

Where was The Fear Index filmed?

The Fear Index was shot completely on location in the Hungarian capital of Budapest in spring 2021. The production company chose to shoot in Budapest because it had similar architecture to Geneva, where the book and TV adaptation are both set. 

It was shot largely in the city centre, with two private houses in the suburbs doubling for the Hoffmans’ house in the show. A disused warehouse in the city was also used. 

Leila Farzad, who plays Gabby Hoffman in The Fear Index, reveals that the cast and crew faced one particular challenge with said warehouse location. She tells BT.com exclusively: “We were filming in a swamp at night, where the warehouse was, and my God, I didn’t know there would be so many mosquitoes in Hungary! It was quite unpleasant.”

Filming was also hampered by Covid-19 protocols, which meant that none of the cast could travel home to visit their families during the 10-week shoot.

She tells us: “Covid was an absolute nightmare, and it meant that none of us could go home and see our kids. We were all under a lot of emotional and psychological strain. It was one of the biggest hindrances.

"When we all signed up, I think we all thought that we could fly home every weekend and see them. So, you had four [main] actors who became friends because of this troubled, Covid situation that we were in.”

The Fear Index filming Budapest Instagram/leila_farzad_official

Josh Hartnett, who plays the show’s lead Dr Alex Hoffman, says that the only positive to come out of the situation was that the cast and crew were incredibly focused during shooting, because there was no possibility of returning to Budapest to film reshoots.

He tells BT.com: “The Covid regulations add an element of focus because you know you can’t come back to the location, you can’t do a reshoot in another location, it’s now or never. You only have this amount of time.

"The budget is limited massively by the Covid rules, so you have to work really hard in the moment and there’s no getting around it. I think that’s the only good thing that comes out of it, is that you’re 100% focused all of the time.”

Arsher Ali, who plays Hoffman’s hedge fund business partner Hugo Quarry, agrees: “If there’s a scene where everyone’s losing their minds, you’ve got to do it there and then, because you’re only going to get a couple of goes of it.

"The rigmarole of trying to get everyone back in, not just the actors but supporting actors and all the different departments… You have to get all those people back? No.”

Who is Robert Harris?

Robert Harris David Levenson/Getty

Robert Harris is an English writer and author of 14 novels and historical novels, many of which have been adapted for film and TV.

They include his debut novel Fatherland, made into a film starring Rutger Hauer and Miranda Richardson, Enigma, which starred Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet, and Archangel, which in 2005 became a BBC mini-series starring Daniel Craig.

His 2017 novel Munich has recently been made into a film starring Jeremy Irons and George MacKay.

A former journalist, Harris has also published non-fiction works on The Falklands Crisis, Germ Warfare, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, and the Hitler Diaries fraud.

Hit Play below to watch Josh Hartnett and The Fear Index cast talk book to TV adaptation

The Fear Index ratings and reviews

Lucy Mangan from The Guardian gave the financial thriller a four-star rating, calling it an "enjoyably tense, complex watch".

She praised the performance of the show's lead Josh Hartnett: "[He] invests Hoffman with a palpable, credible and increasingly corrosive fearfulness from the off. It feels real. It looks as if he is truly suffering."

Financial Times' TV critic Dan Einav handed out three stars, writing that "The Fear Index provides a dizzying rush, but its speed can reduce all detail to a sequence of blurs".

Viewers also took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the series, writing that they're "hooked and "intrigued" by the cyber-thriller.