Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Thai actor gets his Visa

From bit parts on Thai TV, Vichai Jongprasitporn has gone to hobnobbing with international film stars and flying first class – though it’s taken a while for people to believe his adventures are real.

So goes the recent profile in The Nation on Vichai, the spiky-haired actor from the Asian Visa card commercials.

In the first one, he portrayed a tuk-tuk driver who picked up Pierce Brosnan and ferried him across traffic-choked Bangkok in an adventurous fashion to make sure the 007 actor made his date on time with Zhang Ziyi. At the end of the spot, Vichai's ride collapsed in a heap, only to have Brosnan flip him his Visa card. Vichai then turned up with a vastly improved, tricked-out tuk-tuk.

The clever tuk-tuk commercial appeared throughout the Asia-Pacific and was voted among the top 10 most popular television commercials for the year in Thailand and won an award in Hong Kong.

But most of Vichai's friends did not believe Vichai actually acted with Brosnan, nor that Brosnan and Zhang were actually in Bangkok, figuring it was all a bit of movie-making magic.

Now he's in a new commercial that stars Catherine Zeta-Jones. Vichai is driving a jeep, taking the Welsh beauty on a safari through a Malaysian jungle.

Both actors are upstaged by an orangutan, who creates a diversion to stop the jeep while the primate's friends steal Zeta-Jones's luggage. She responds by arranging for a truckload of bananas to be delivered (with the help of her Visa card, of course) to get her luggage returned.

In making the commercial, Visa treated Vichai like a king.

"I was much more excited about it than I was the first time," he told The Nation. "They flew me first class on Thai Airways and put me up in a five-star hotel. I had a personal translator. And I received a six-digit payment that was twice what they paid me last time."

Also, his friends -- and more importantly, TV and film casting directors -- now believe him.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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