Friday, May 7, 2004

Suriyothai director visits Rings workshop; planning sequel

In preparing for his next film, veteran Thai director M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol has been visiting the Weta Workshops in New Zealand, according to

Weta was responsible for the special effects in the epic adaptation of the fantasy trilogy, Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson.

Chatrichalerm, who directed the sprawling historical epic, Suriyothai as well as dozens of other films, is looking for new ideas as he plans to make an ambitious follow-up to the biggest movie ever made in Thailand.

According to an article by Kong Rithdee in today's Bangkok Post (Real Time, page 7), the prince is in pre-production for a new historical epic based on the life of King Naraesuan, the 16th century ruler who fought for Siamese independence during a Burmese occupation.

While Suriyothai featured a cast of 3,000 extras, plans are to have 10,000 extras in the followup, the New Zealand-based reported.

In Suriyothai, the actors wore authentic steel armor, which was heavy. Chatrichalerm was checking out the lightweight but authentic-looking armor hand-crafted by the Weta Workshop and used in The Lord of the Rings.

The prince and his crew have been learning how Weta used molds to create landscape features, and build miniature trees and miniature ships, reported, citing statements from Weta manager Jenny Morgan. They also spent time with weapons experts, who with other Weta staff had previously visited the prince's production company in Thailand.

Chatrichalerm first visited Weta seven months ago and met Peter Jackson, who is now in the midst of filming a remake of King Kong. By coincidence, Chatrichalerm, 61, was an intern for producer Merian Cooper, who produced and co-directed the original King Kong in 1933 - the version that Jackson is basing his remake on.

Another project that Chatrichalerm is considering is a fantasy-adventure, Peth Pra Uma, from a novel by Thai author Panom Thien, the Post reported. An epic bigger than Lord of the Rings and Suriyothai put together, Peth Pra Uma is a 50-volume series that narrates the trek of a ranger through a land of humans and monsters.

On Suriyothai, Chatichalerm collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola - a classmate from film school at UCLA - to re-edit a shorter-version of the original three-hour film for international audiences.

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