Friday, June 19, 2009

Danny Boyle: Shooting The Beach was like 'an army invading Thailand'

Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle is the head of the jury at this year's Shanghai International Film Festival. And amid speculation on whether his next film will be shot in Asia, he took part in a panel discussion at the Shanghai fest on Thursday.

The headlines deal with Boyle talking about the "regrettable" restrictions on filmmakers in China. But what interested me was his illustrating a contrast between making Slumdog Millionaire with a small crew in India versus the big-budget production of The Beach, shot in in Thailand. Here's a snip from the Associated Press story by Min Lee:

Boyle said he tried to shed an "imperialist" mentality when he shot Slumdog Millionaire, learning from the experience of his 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio drama The Beach, when he arrived in Thailand with 200 crew members.

"You are an army invading Thailand. You flatten everything in front of you. People just see you as money," Boyle said.

By contrast, he said he brought only 10 crew members from Europe to Mumbai to shoot Slumdog, relying heavily on a local Indian crew, which he said worked better because Indian extras "won't react to the controlling instincts of the Western crew, quite the opposite — the chaos just becomes more and more manifest the whole time."

He said he believes working with local crews is the future of Western films shooting overseas.

"The imperialist or colonial days — you have to forget," he said.

The Beach was controversial, not only for charges by environmental activists that the production "destroyed" the pristine sands of Koh Phi Phi Leh, but also for the depiction of Thailand as paradise for hedonism and drug use, as well as a scene with a sacred Buddha image in a bar.

I think since then, most foreign productions in Thailand have been kept on a tighter leash, though for now at least, Thailand is still seen as a less-restrictive place to make movies compared to China.

(Photos via AP/Yahoo News and IMDb)

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