Friday, March 14, 2008

Chocolate ready to begin international onslaught

Hong Kong will be the first stop for Chocolate as it begins its round of overseas commercial releases. It will open there next month, according to a story by Agence-France Presse.

Distributors in Japan, Singapore and South Korea have already signed up for the film, too, and U.S. rights were secured long ago by The Weinstein Company.

As the makers of Chocolate and its petite star Yanin "Jeeja" Wismitananda look ahead to promoting the film internationally, they are strengthening their ties to the Tony Jaa brand, with Jeeja saying she was "under the tutelage of Jaa." She is quoted by AFP as saying:

Yes, people compare me to [Tony Jaa] a lot, but I would like to set things straight. I am not as good as he is. He is my trainer, and I'm just his student. I have all the respect in the world for him."

Director Prachya Pinkaew reveals more about the origins of Chocolate, offering a glimpse of foreign involvement from the very beginning.

It was after the international box office success of Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong that "foreign distributors asked if I had a female actress who could star in an action film," Prachya is quoted as saying by AFP. "So the search began."

Here's more from the AFP story:

The girl of his dreams had dark skin, a solid body and exotic looks. His plan was to sell the sex appeal of this strong yet feminine character and he hoped to find someone like Zhang Ziyi, Chinese star of Memoirs of a Geisha.

"But then we got Jeeja, who has no sex appeal at all," he said. "So we had to come up with something to compensate for that."

No sex appeal? At all? Let me pause for a moment and ponder that.

Okay. I'm back. More on foreign involvement: I've heard that The Weinstein Company asked for changes to Chocolate after it was essentially completed. The Weinsteins asked that perennial heavy Pongpat Wachirabunjong be brought in to play chief villain No. 8, after another actor, Sakda Pattaseema, had been cast and had filmed his scenes. They also asked that 13 Beloved director Chukiat Sakweerakul be brought in as a script doctor to write new dialogue. With Pongpat as the new No. 8, the scenes involving the character were reshot.

While the Weinsteins have often been criticized for their changes to films, here is a case where they were able to get directly involved and tell the filmmakers what they wanted, and from the accounts I've heard, they made it a better film.

So with that tidbit, I'm wondering just who those "foreign distributors" were who asked for a Thai female action vehicle in the first place.

Solidifying the Thai action brand, and perfecting a formula are also behind Chocolate. Prachya has more on that in the AFP story:

Real stunts are what international markets are after," said the director. "Films like this cannot be remade, because it requires personal skills to give viewers a sense of reality."

"When making this film, I made both local and international audiences my targets," he said. "I know what they like to see."

More information:


  1. I know this article is a couple years old, but I just had to comment.

    Jeeja has no sex appeal?? really??

    Prachya must either be gay or not straight!

  2. I think what the director mean is that Jeeja doesn't completely possess the kind of erotic body curves needed to convey the image of a sexy female fighting chick (in contrast with the likes of Halle Berry). As we can see, her body resembles more of a sports person, possibly due to martial arts training, than of a seductress.


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