Thursday, April 8, 2010

Largo Winch 2 completes shooting in Thailand

The big-budget French action drama Largo Winch 2 recently wrapped up production in Thailand. The movie follows the first entry in the series, which played in Thailand last year. To celebrate the sequel, the producers and the Tourism Authority of Thailand called a press conference on March 18 at the Four Seasons Hotel to celebrate. Lekha Shankar was there and she sent this report.

Story and photos by Lekha J. Shankar

It’s not often that you see the Tourism Authority of Thailand holding a press conference to announce a foreign film, but in the current political situation, any international build-up of the country is useful, especially if it’s connected with a 25-million-euro French film like Largo Winch 2.

“We’ve had 430,000 French visitors to the country every year, and we hope this film will bring more French visitors here,” said the new TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni, a keen movie-lover himself, at a press conference in the Four Seasons Hotel to announce the completion of the two month-shooting of the French film.

The TAT governor said he had faith in “the strength and power of films, to make a destination known to the world”, which was why TAT was "prioritising" the film industry. In fact, he said with pride that nearly 20 international film-productions were currently "shooting" in the country.

The Largo Winch 2 event was attended by the chief cast of the film, including French director Jérôme Salle, star Tomer Sisley and producer Nathalie Gastaldo. Also present, was the Thai cast, including leading lady Mamee Nakprasitte, who seems to be the Thai actress most in demand for foreign films, actor Praptpadol Suwanbang and veteran actor Nirut Sirichanya.

Most of the shooting for Largo Winch 2 was done in Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand, with some stints at Chiang Mai and Bangkok. The final bout of shooting would be held at Belgium in May, and actress Mamee was excited that she would be doing a scene with Hollywood actress Sharon Stone.

The first part of Largo Winch, adapted from a very popular Belgian comic book, was shot in Hong Kong. It was shown at 480 theatres in France, attracting nearly 1.4 million people.

Largo Winch was pre-sold to 40 countries at the Cannes Film Market and producer Nathalie hopes to do the same business when they take Largo Winch 2 to Cannes this year.

The French film team could not stop raving about the shooting facilities in Thailand. They all agreed that the Thai film crews were superb.

Actor Tomer said he was struck by “the sincerity and generosity of their work.”

Director Salle stated “the weather, landscape and crew in Thailand are all excellent. I’ll definitely come back to shoot another film in Thailand!”

Producer Nathalie said she was amazed by the superior quality of the hotels, which were about 25% cheaper than anywhere else.

She said most of their crew were Thai, except for six people from France.

The French team said that they would talk about their excellent experience in Thailand to many international film folk “and we will certainly promote Thailand.”

As for the Thai team, they seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience working with the French.

Mamee, who did an American-Thai film Bitter/Sweet last year, said she was struck by the French unit’s “eye for detail. I haven’t done more than three takes in the other foreign films I’ve worked in. But in this film, I had to sometimes do 10 re-takes,” she stated.

There’s a running escape sequence at the end of the film, which she said she had to repeat several times “and I fell down and hurt myself, so many times,” she laughed

But apart from that, she loved the scenic beauty of Mae Hong Son where she hadn’t been before. “It was so romantic!”

The actress said she totally enjoyed her "natural" look in the film, where she hardly uses any make-up.

She admitted she had some "sexy" scenes in the French film, though a "double" was used.

Praptpadol, who starred in the controversial indie Japanese drama Children of the Dark, said it was a very different experience to act in a big budget French film like this and that he had learned a lot. He said it was important to know English to work on foreign productions, and he said he was working hard to improve his language skills.

Actor Nirut Sirichanya stated that to a veteran artiste like him, this was a small role, but it was an interesting experience for him “to see a foreigner’s version of Thailand.”

After the press conference, there was an after-party at the Muse nightclub on Thonglor, where the wine and food flowed freely and the Thai and French crew spent their last evening together in total camaraderie. Actress Mamee clicked lots of pictures, while French actor Tomar suddenly grabbed the mic and belted out two songs in rough rock style.

Largo Winch 2 is expected to be released in February 2011.

The only negative story one heard about the film, was that an established Thai production-studio lost out to a smaller studio owned by a French national apparently because the latter agreed to forgo production fees.

It seems that the Thai film industry needs to form unions, like in the US, to protect themselves.

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