At least two major foreign martial arts-fantasy film productions are under way in Thailand, The Storm Riders II, directed by the Pang Brothers, and the video-game adaptation, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, starring Robin Shou.
The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee has visited the set of The Storm Riders II. Budgeted at around US$9 million, the film is being entirely shot in a set of riverside warehouses in Bangkok's Pakkred district. The martial arts fantasy stars Ekin Cheng as Wind and Aaron Kwok as Cloud, reprising their roles from the 1998 original film, which was directed by Andrew Lau and was one of the highest-grossing films of its day.
Here is more from the Bangkok Post article (cache), with the Pang Brothers explaining why they are shooting it in Thailand:
"We feel comfortable working with the Thai crew," says the long-haired Danny Pang.
Then the short-haired Oxide chipped in: "Eighty percent of the crew are Thai. We wanted to shoot the whole film here because we trust them, and because it's probably cheaper than shooting in Hong Kong, even though we have to fly in some of the props and costumes."
"We have seven or eight major fight sequences in the film," says Danny. "And we will build them all in these warehouses. There's no location shooting involved; it's a fantastic film anyway."
The brothers - Asia's modest answer to the Coens, perhaps - have shot most of their Hong Kong films in Thailand, including the Eye franchise; the supernatural thriller Re-Cycle, which premiered at Cannes in 2006; the little-known Abnormal Beauty; and The Detective. The stories in these films are not necessarily about Thailand or Thai characters.
Over 523 foreign productions -- from documentaries and TV commercials to feature films and music videos -- chose to shoot in Thailand in 2007, according to the Thailand Film Office, the agency which oversees such activities. Japan leads the pack with 154 shoots in the Kingdom, followed by 102 from Europe and 92 from India. Only 22 US productions came here last year. One of them, though, was the remake of Bangkok Dangerous.
Kong goes on to mention that film production on a closed, indoor set is unusual in Thailand, because of the lack of large soundstages in in the country. There are only two that would be appropriate for a film the size of The Storm Riders II -- WorkPoint Entertainment, which is used to make TV shows, and Moonstar, which is always heavily booked.
Mostly, foreign productions come to Thailand for the exotic outdoor settings -- beaches, jungles, rice paddies, elephants, etc. -- but with a few more soundstages, film productions could come to Thailand and be set anywhere in the universe while taking advantage of the Kingdom's relatively low labor costs and the generous experience of the local industry's film crews. It could really become that "hub" that government officials are always banging on about.
The Storm Riders II will continue shooting until July, with the film due out sometime in 2009.
On location in Thailand is Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. An adaptation of the long-running videogame series, the film is being directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die) and stars Kristen Kreuk in the title role and Robin Shou as the character Gen. Neil McDonough, Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Klein and Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas also star.
Cinematical has been following the production and has posts about it here and here.
The production also has its own blog, which appears to be updated weekly.
(Photos: Top, from left, Oxide Pang, Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng and Danny Pang at the traditional Buddhist pre-production prayer ceremony for Storm Riders II; Ekin Cheng as Wind and Aaron Kwok as Cloud, via Xinhuanet.com - thanks to Twitch; Robin Shou as Gen via StreetFighterMovie.net)