Friday, July 25, 2008

Troubles for Ong-Bak 2 and Tony Jaa

More stories about Tony Jaa and his troubles with Ong-Bak 2 have emerged in the Thai press today, and Bangkok of the Mind has an epic series of postings about the issue (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

According to the stories, Tony has been feeling stressed by running his own Iyara Film Company and directing and starring in his own film. He walked off the set of Ong-Bak 2 two months ago to go on a retreat in the jungle.

Executive producer Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert and Sahamongkol Film International had budgeted Ong-Bak 2 at 100 million baht, but it has gone over budget by three times that amount, the reports say.

Prachya Pinkaew, Tony's director on Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong, has been brought in to salvage Ong-Bak 2. As rumors have it, Prachya and Tony had a falling out over Tony's decision to direct the film himself. But with about 70 to 80 percent of the film completed, they still need Tony to act in the scenes, unless they use stunt doubles, CGI or cardboard heads like they did to finish Bruce Lee's last film Game of Death.

Meanwhile, Tony's mentor Panna Rittikrai was dispatched to hunt for Tony and try to get the production back on track. Panna is said to have met with Tony once or twice, with no solution reached. After that, Tony was in the wind. Panna went looking in the actor's favorite meditation caves, but turned up no sign of him.

But Tony's family in Surin Province saw him during Buddhist Lent last week, and they denied he was in the forest practicing black magic, as reports have suggested.

And actress Bongkot "Tak" Kongmalai, who co-starred with Tony in Tom Yum Goong, said she'd been in contact with him by phone, and that he was fine.

Yesterday On Tuesday, Tony turned up at the Radisson hotel in Bangkok, "where his skin looked darker, and his hair a little wilder normal, but otherwise seemed fine", reports Bangkok of the Mind. "He smiled and waved to his fans."

Akarapol "Joe" Techaratanaprasert, son of executive producer Sia Jiang, is quoted as saying that Jaa didn't disappear - he asked for time away to contemplate martial-arts moves and stunts for the film's big ending climactic scenes.

But Bangkok of the Mind has a more sensational report from Thai Rath, Thailand's biggest mass-circulation daily, which has a reporter meeting Jaa at a "safe house". A newspaper photo has Tony looking grim-faced, clutching a bundle of documents, I guess as proof of his money troubles.

He denies he's stopped working on the film. And he denies he's spent 300 million baht. He says the movie was budgeted at 232 million baht, but he's only received 117 million baht.

Sahamongkol has cut him off, Jaa says, so he used his own money to pay workers on the set, and has gone broke in the process. He's behind in his mortgage, and his electricity is disconnected. "He sought out a quiet place to figure a way out of his problems," Bangkok of the Mind says.

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