Friday, June 24, 2005

Batman's Thai connection

Look close at Batman Begins, and you probably still won't pick up on the fact that the stuntmen are Thai. But they are.

They're part of a team led by Kavi "Seng" Sirikanaerat, who learned his stunt chops under the tutelage of veteran Thai director and stunt coordinator Panna Ritthakai, who's made his mark directing the action for Ong-Bak and with his own Born to Fight.

Other films he's worked on include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2, in which he was a bad guy crushed to death by a giant pillar in an aquatic city. "The earth splits and the roof crumbles," he told the Bangkok Post recently. "It's quite a death, isn't it?"

In addition to Tomb Raider, he and his team have worked with Hollywood productions in Thailand like Alexander, The Beach and Tomorrow Never Dies. Sometimes they are contracted to fly to London soundstages to work in action scenes, like in Batman Begins.

"They're in the early scene when Christian Bale [playing Bruce Wayne/Batman] fist-fights a horde of inmates in the Chinese prison," Kavi told the Post's Kong Rithdee. "I didn't accompany them because I was working on something else at that time," he said, referring to the TV commercials for Visa card, that spot with a tuk-tuk and Pierce Brosnan.

At 37, the Khon Kaen native now prefers to choreograph the moves and supervise the team. He continues to assist Panna in Thai productions, but also works on his own, getting kicked and crushed and bashed in everything from Hong Kong gangster yarns to Bollywood actioners and countless American, Australian and Korean movies and teleplays.

"Once Hong Kong was the centre of fine stunt work, but I believe our Thai stunts have made quite a reputation to international producers lately," Kawee told the Post. "The strength of Thai stunts are our versatility. Each of us can perform everything from muay thai to kung fu, from sling shots to falling-from-a-cliff shots _ we offer it all in the package.

"Besides, foreign producers like us not just because of our skills, but because we work hard and do not complain. We're ready to try new things and to co-operate with them in any way they want. At the same time, perhaps the Hong Kong-style action is fading out. All these are factors why even Hollywood comes to us."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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