Thep on the TonyJaa.org forum starts off the September update thread with a flurry of Thai media reports that Tony Jaa has been replaced in Naresuan 3 by Born to Fight star "Deaw" Chupong Changprung.
Naresuan director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol had made comments on Pantip.com that Tony Jaa's recent erratic behavior would make directors wary. And now it appears Than Mui is one of those who's walking sideways from Tony, despite that Tony had already been on the Naresuan 3 set and had donned his slaveboy garb.
And there's the possibility that Jaa may lose his place in Warlords director Peter Chan's planned project set in Thailand, which is to also star Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro.
Dan Chupong, as he's known in the West, has been quick to reject the rumors that he's been annointed the top action star in the stable of Sahamongkol Film International.
He says he can't compare to Tony and denies that he is the "new beloved son" of Sahamongkol boss Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert. TonyJaa.org quotes a report from MCOT.
Our style of action is different. Tony’s is Muay Thai, and mine is another. And I think Sia Jiang loves every actor like his own child. He is generous with his time to every one.
After walking off the set of Ong-Bak 2, production has resumed with Tony still in his starring role but his job as director has been taken over by his mentor, Born to Fight director Panna Rittikrai.
There were rumors that once production wraps up on Ong-Bak 2, Tony would be cast out by Sia Jiang, over a dispute about money. One of the reasons Tony said he stopped production of Ong-Bak 2 was because he was broke, while Sahamongkol execs said they'd given him 250 million baht to make the movie. In a stand-off that ensued between the star and his producer, Tony had issued a list of demands, asking for 55 million baht more to complete the film.
And in a move that reaffirms the company's backing of Tony Jaa and partially meets one of his demands, Sia Jiang has turned over 50 million baht as completion funds for Ong-Bak 2. That was also reported in an item on Page 7 of yesterday's Daily Xpress.
Here's more from the TonyJaa.org forum, which quotes another MCOT report:
A news reporter asks him about the possibility of a new Tony Jaa movie from Sahamongkol after Ong-Bak 2. And Sia Jieang says “Yes, why not? He is an actor under contract of our production company. We will surely supply work to him. In the contract we must pay him salary. So, how can we pay him and cast him away without work in return?”
I think we need both Dan Chupong and Tony Jaa.
Tony's films are all about gruff determination, and despite the presence of a comic-relief character played by Mum Jokmok, Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong are quite serious in tone. But their entertainment value is in Tony's balletic martial-arts moves.
Dan Chupong, positioned as the No. 2 action star at Sahamongkol, has a more rough-and-tumble appeal. I think his Born to Fight and Dynamite Warrior are more fun to watch than either of Tony's films, even if the martial arts isn't up to the same level.
Recently Dan made a wryly comic cameo as a policeman in the Nathan Jones' vehicle Somtum. With the tough-as-nails little girl boxer Sasisa Jindamanee from Born to Fight as well as guest shot from another Born to Fight alum, taekwando sister Kessarin "Nui" Ektawatkul, Somtum (also Pattaya Papaya) was a blast. As an aside, how about an action vehicle for all of Sahamongkol's sister fighters - Chocolate's Jeeja Yanin, with Sasisa and Nui?
And I look forward to seeing Dan in Queens of Langkasuka, which makes its bow tonight as the midnight movie at the Venice Film Festival.