Ong-Bak 2 is no longer a martial-arts epic. It's a soap opera.
First there were the tears welling up in the eyes of Sahamongkol boss Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert, saying he loves wayward star and director Tony Jaa like a son.
Then, yesterday, Tony emerged to talk to television cameras for the first time since he walked off the set of Ong-Bak 2. And he was all red-eyed and crying.
It's painful to see him like this. This is not how the world's next big martial-arts star is supposed to act. But then you put that kind of pressure on a guy -- saying he's the next Bruce Lee -- no wonder he cracked.
With a suit-and-tie lawyer at his side, Tony appeared on a Modernine's "Nine Entertain" show for broadcast today. In his interview, he says he's fine and ready to return to work as director of Ong-Bak 2. Today's Daily Xpress, splashed a tearful, red-eyed Tony on its tabloid cover, with the sensational headline "I don't dabble in black magic". Here's more from their story:
He denies he’s superstitious.
“It’s untrue,” he says. Rumours are widespread the actor is involved in black magic. “I know what I am doing. I am a director. I have to research what’s in the film,” he says.
Jaa’s absence sparked rumours he’s obsessed with black magic and had been “exhibiting strange behaviour on the set”. He is reported to dress as a shaman and meditates while cast and crew are ready to shoot. He has suddenly cancelled shooting for days.
There's the argument over money, with Tony saying Sahamongkol has given 117 million baht for the picture, and he was run out and gone broke trying to make the film. But Sahamongkol execs, along with Tony's former director Prachya Pinkaew and erstwhile mentor Panna Rittikrai, have said they have spent 250 million baht on Ong-Bak 2. So there must be a misunderstanding, to say the least.
Meanwhile, Prachya has been tasked with taking over the movie and completing it in time for its planned December 4 (or 5th?) release.
The Daily Xpress story continues:
[Jaa] was “shocked” to learn there’s no more money and went away to work out his “frustration” in a “quiet place”.
He vows to return and finish the film. “But, I have to meet Sia Jiang first,” he says. “I still respect Sia Jiang, Panna and Prachya.”
Sia Jiang says he loves Jaa and “forgives” him. But, Jaa says “different filmmaking philosophies” might cause further delay.
And some further raw quotes from the interview:
He said success has not changed him. “I’ve never forgotten that I came from nothing.”
“I consider film as an art created by the soul, not business, so anything I do has to be perfect. But I apologise for the problem. I will go to see Sia Jiang to find the way out and finish the film."
International reaction to Tony's troubles has been one of shock and sorrow.
Mark Pollard of KungFuCinema.org puts things into perspective, comparing Tony with another stressed star who walked away -- comedian David Chappelle. Pollard says Tony has taken on too much responsibility too soon, given his meteoric rise to fame, as opposed to stars like Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, who toiled away for decades before they reached international superstardom. Pollard goes as far as suggesting that Tony give Hollywood a try, where though his action would be dumbed down, he might learn something.
I don't know. I think Hollywood would eat Tony alive. What a horrible, demeaning, humiliating business.
Update: TonyJaa.org has a translation of the "Nine Entertain" transcript (via Kaiju Shakedown).
- English-language press on Tony Jaa's troubles
- Jaa forgiven but Prachya Pinkaew asked to take over Ong-Bak 2
- Troubles for Ong-Bak 2 and Tony Jaa
- Report: Tony Jaa in the poor house
(Photo by Warisara Wuthikul/Daily Xpress)