[Note: An earlier posting about Fireball has been deleted because it contained incorrect information about the cast and had links to an incomplete footage reel that has since been taken offline.]
Fake and Opapatika director Thanakorn Pongsuwan's new movie Fireball is not only a new blend of action -- melding Muay Thai with basketball -- it's also the first film from a new Thai studio, albeit one with some familiar names behind it.
They held a press conference yesterday at the Bangkok International Film Festival to introduce some of the cast of the film and to premiere their finished showreel.
Producing Fireball is Adirek Wattaleela, better known by the enigmatic nickname of Uncle, and Sangar Chatchairungruang -- the team behind Film Bangkok, the company that was largely responsible for introducing Thai films to the international market in 2000. They were behind such films as the original Bangkok Dangerous, Tears of the Black Tiger and Bang Rajan.
But the company went out of business in 2005 after an expensive string of movies that included Angulimala, The Siam Renaissance and the cult-favorite zombie comedy SARS Wars, which travelled the festival circuit but didn't perform as expected financially.
Uncle then directed Ghost Variety released by Sahamongkol, a horror comedy that was also a satire of the Thai film industry, and he's made cameo appearances as half the comic duo of policemen in Buppha Rahtree and several other films. Uncle was also behind this year's comedy Theng's Angel.
Sangar went to work at Matching Film, producing Zee Oui and the Steven Seagal vehicle Into the Sun and other films. He also was a producer on Re-Cycle for the Pang Brothers.
Sangar says Bangkok Film Studio isn't exactly the relaunch of Film Bangkok, even if the name's just switched around and the company logo uses the same font as the old studio.
He says the idea behind Bangkok Film Studio is to make Thai movies with the international market in mind. The movies will be developed with funding from various sources, including pre-sales, soft money and sponsorship. It's important that Bangkok Film Studio retain control of the films, though, because having too many financial backers usually proves unwieldy in terms of creative direction.
The new company's first effort, Fireball, will be released in November or December of this year. It will be distributed by Adamas World. Golden Network Asia is handling international sales, and Red Bull is the main sponsor.
Director Thanakorn says he first thought of the concept of Muay Thai baskeball about three years ago, and that it's taken time to develop it. In the meantime, however, there's been the Jay Chou vehicle Kung Fu Dunk blending hoops and kung fu, which a project like Fireball will be compared to, even though Thanakorn insists his idea was independent. Besides, the concept is different, and much grittier.
Production commenced immediately after Thanakorn wrapped up his previous film, the long-in-the-works supernatural action thriller Opapatika, which was released last year. The Fireball cast was put through a year of training and then production took another year, he says. Here's more from a prepared director's note:
When I was planning for Fireball, I wanted it to be a good action movie that could combine great action sequences and good storytelling. So, the goal of this movie is to make a good quality, market-friendly drama-action film.
Fireball is equally balanced between drama and action. And I want to make the drama part as touching as possible.
The theme of this movie is that this world is one big test. There's a lot of cruelty that we have to find a way through, which to me is very interesting.
For this movie, movement of all the action sequences is very complicated, because they're hand-to-hand combat, which is very different from shooting [or gunplay] scenes. We tried to capture the feeling of each scene. I want everyone to understand what the character has to go through, to feel what they felt. And also, the complicated fighting sequences make this movie very challenging.
The story of Fireball involves an underground, no-holds-barred, no-fouls-called style of basketball that is played to the death. Here's the official synopsis:
Tai gets out of jail to find that twin brother Tan had been in a coma for a year. He discovers that his brother had entered the world of Fireball, a violent game based on basketball hosted by an underground criminal gangs, so as to raise the money for Tai's early release. However, he was brutally beaten by another player Tun. Tai agrees to join Dens' team so that he can track down the man who hospitalized his brother.
Tai is befriended by his teammates: Singh, a Thai boxing champion who wants to prove that he is the best; Muk, a Thai-African guy who needs money to support his family; IQ, a cheerful character who only wants to help his mother; and K, an old friend of Tai's, who has a mysterious past. He and his teammates must risk their lives and fight their way to the final round of the deadly Fireball championships so that Tai can avenge his brother on the court.
The star is Preeti Barameanan, better known as Bank, lead singer of the Thai rock group Clash. (Bank was unavailable for yesterday's press conference.)
Other cast members are Nine Million Sam (Singh), a Thai boxer making his film debut; Anuwat "Earth" Jeg (K), a former professional basketball player and current hot model; Kumpanart "Johnny" Ungsoonmern (Muk), a former soccer player who's been in Dynamite Warrior and the Naresuan movies; Karnnut "Bas" Samerjai, a member of Thailand's national basketball team; and Kantura "Aem" Chuchuaysuwan, an actress who's been on TV shows and in music videos.
Hopefully, I'll soon have the completed showreel as well as more material from Fireball to share.
(Photo via Flickr: Thanakorn Pongsuwan, cast members Nine Million Sam, Karnnut "Bas" Samerjai, Anuwat "Earth" Jeg and producer Sangar Chatchairungruang.)