Monday, November 15, 2004

Shutter clicks in Singapore

Shutter, this year's smash-hit bit of Thai horror, is opening in Singapore, the first of what I think will be many international forays for this film.

New Paper interviewed star Ananda Everingham, the 22-year-old Australian-Laotian actor, describing him as "a bit Tony Leung meets Keanu Reeves".

The down-to-earth Eurasian lad - the sort you can imagine having a few drinks with on a Friday night - spent his early childhood in Australia and moved to Thailand when he was nine.

At 14, he confessed, he was a 'naughty boy' who was kicked out of school. He worked in the family restaurant, mixing drinks behind the bar.

By his own admission, he was a handful, and his father decided to send him to a boarding school in Darjeeling, India, he said.

Thank goodness for talent scouts.

Everingham recalled: 'I was spotted by a guy at the bar.

'He asked me if I wanted to go into acting. I signed the contract just to get out of my dad's plans to send me to boarding school... I've been acting since.'

The occasional model is also a regular in Thai TV dramas and has done Thai films such as last year's Kon Sung Phee (Ghost Delivery).

But Shutter is his first big movie.

The film, which will open here next Thursday, is Thailand's No 1 local box office hit this year, grossing 110 million baht ($4.5m).

Everingham said: 'This started out as an indie film. It was not anything like this. The directors said 'do it for art'.'

In fact, the accidental actor so impressed the directors that they stopped auditions - which had been going on for two months - immediately after his turn, said one of Shutter's two directors, Banjong Pisonthanakun.

'I thought he was a model and couldn't act. And he wasn't impressive in his two previous films. But we cried when he auditioned and acted out the scene where Jane dumps him, ' said Banjong.

Hearing him tell a bit of the story of his father, Mr John Everingham, only adds to his romantic aura.

The older Everingham was based in Laos for 10 years as a journalist and photographer for Newsweek and other western publications before being expelled by the Communist Pathet Lao regime. He made international headlines in 1978 with his daring deed of returning to Laos from Thailand to save his Laotian love, Ms Keo Sirisomphone, by swimming across the Mekong River.

Their dramatic love story was immortalised in a 1983 film Love Is Forever staring Michael Landon, Priscilla Presley and Moira Chen, the younger Everingham told this reporter - a touch disappointed that I hadn't heard of the film.

And there's a ghost story about making the movie:

Lead actress Natthaveeranuch Thongmee, 25, claims she saw 'someone out there' in the scene where the female ghost - with typical bloodied facial features - climbs onto the hood of the car as photographer Than is driving.

She started to deliver her lines because she thought that's her cue, said Natthaveeranuch.

But lead actor Ananda Everingham didn't see what she saw and mistimed his lines. Spooky.

The 'ghost' in the movie, Achita Wuthinundsurasith, 22, has her very own ghost story.

She had a fall while filming one day. And as she lay on the corridor floor, she claimed she 'felt many people walk on me'. Then, she heard an old man ask her 'have you asked for permission to film here?'.

She later found out that the crew hadn't gone through the usual ritual of asking the spirit guarding the place for approval.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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