Over the weekend, The Hollywood Reporter had an exclusive report that Tony Jaa had been cast in Fast and Furious 7, joining regular franchise stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as well as new villain Jason Statham. Set to start shooting next month, it's being directed by Saw and Insidious helmer James Wan, who takes over the series from Justin Lin.
The THR report appears to be based on an e-mail from Jaa:
"I have been a big fan of the Fast and Furious franchise," said Jaa via e-mail from Thailand. "The films are fast-paced, fun and keep the audience involved. There is a great mix of humor and action, something I really appreciate. There is no better film to be involved in for a first U.S. studio production."
As can be expected, the report when viral, with all the usual genre-film websites repeating it.
A handful of the Thai press also ran with the story, and it was all a big surprise to Tony's boss and career father figure, Sahamongkol Film International head honcho Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert. He called a press conference on Monday to explain his surprise. Here's a recap from Soopsip in The Nation today:
“Jaa is still under a 10-year contract with us,” he calmly said, and it was only renewed last month. Of course, that’s just for movies he makes in Thailand.
Sia Jiang did seem a bit like an upset father, though, since he financially takes care of not only Jaa but also Jaa’s parents. He too only found out about the “Furious” news when Manager Online picked up a Hollywood Reporter story. Jaa hasn’t even mentioned it to him.
“I’m holding this press interview so that he knows I’m not mad at him.”
But isn’t he disappointed about not being informed?
Sia Jiang said he has no right to feel that way. “Haven’t you guys ever seen a rising star before?” he laughed. “He’s very famous, so what can I do about it? When he was a nobody, maybe he would prostrate himself before me, but when he’s famous, it could be vice versa.”
It rambles on like that for awhile longer, with the gist being Sia Jiang saying he's only been looking out for Tony Jaa's best interests all these years, etc., but he won't stand in the way as the 37-year-old Ong-Bak star finally breaks out of the Thai industry to land Hollywood roles.
Aside from Fast and Furious 7, Tony is wrapping up work on a new directorial effort, the "Eastern western", A Man Will Rise, co-starring Dolph Lundgren. It's being produced under Sahamongkol's shingle.
And Jaa's reportedly agreed to co-star in a Hollywood vehicle for Lundgren, Skin Trade, in which the Expendables star will portray a New York cop who runs afoul of the Russian mob. Again, reportedly, it's set to be directed by Beautiful Boxer helmer Ekkachai Uekrongtham.
Meanwhile, there's that other little movie that Jaa did, Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (ต้มยำกุ้ง 2). Character posters have turned up in Thai cinemas ahead of its release on October 23 and I expect a second trailer to be turning up online any minute.
It's unknown whether Jaa's schedule on Fast and Furious 7 will conflict with Thai promotional efforts for TYG2.