Monday, July 28, 2008

English-language press on Tony Jaa's troubles

[Note: I'm updating this post to include a report by Variety.]

During this recent spot of bother for Tony Jaa and his latest movie Ong-Bak 2, Bangkok's English-language press has been silent.

Well, neither the Bangkok Post nor The Nation typically give much coverage to Thai celebrities -- unless they are hi-so singers.

For the most part, politics and business news dominates the pages. It's positively gripping stuff.

And there are other issues with the English-language press as well, which I don't feel like going into at this point.

Because this is a post about Tony, and how I was surprised to find The Nation carried an editorial on Saturday about Tony, referred to in the piece by his given Thai name, Panom Yeerum. Here's an excerpt:

For those not familiar with Thai movies, Panom is the most popular Thai action star of his generation. His films, Ong Bak in particular, became international hits. He was once considered the "next big thing" in international martial-arts movies.

While Panom is obviously a potential action star, it might have been too soon for him to take the director's chair, especially for a movie with a budget on this scale. Bt200 million is considered a massive budget for a Thai movie.

Panom said in March that he received Bt117 million from Sahamongkol Film, which was short of the Bt232 million of the estimated budget.

Panom said he nonetheless managed to shoot 80 per cent of the movie. But now Panom said he didn't feel like working anymore, and would rather wait to straighten out the budget issues with Sahamongkol first.

We hope that the actor-turned-director will be able to sort out the differences with Sahamongkol soon because audiences can hardly wait for the sequel to Ong Bak to hit the screens.

Update: The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee, wearing his hat as correspondent for Variety -- it's a fedora with a card that says "press" stuck in the hatband -- reported on Friday night's press conference with Sahamongkol head honcho Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert, Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai and other company officials. Variety published the report on Monday. Here's an excerpt:

"I guarantee that this is not a case of financial fraud, and I have no intention of pursuing any legal action against [Jaa]," Techaratanaprasert said. "We're running behind schedule, and some of our international contracts have been cancelled because of that. I know he loves this film very much, so I just want him to finish the film because there's only a little work left."

Prachya Pinkaew, who directed the first Ong-bak and Tom-yum-goong (shown as The Protector in the U.S.), confirmed that he will step in to edit the footage and maybe direct the rest of the movie.

"Jaa has little experience directing," said Pinkaew. "He's spent nearly $7.8 million. The film is almost finished, so I'll try to see what I can do with the footage that he's shot."

I think Tony has shown a real flair in his first outing behind the camera for capturing action in a frame, judging from the flabbergasting showreel that premiered at the Cannes Film Market. But he needs the guiding hand of experienced producers -- people like his old director Prachya and his old mentor and action choreographer Panna, both veteran filmmakers who were involved in shaping Tony's career. But Tony drifted away from them because he wanted more creative control -- control he clearly could not handle alone.

He also could have used a script, apparently, so he wouldn't have to go off to a cave and meditate, or sacrifice a live chicken in order to make decisions about how to shoot a scene.

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  1. What a lame editorial - no colour, little detail. It is curious that they would write an editorial about it when they had not bothered to cover it as a news story first.

  2. Girls like him also !


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