Vietnam-War-themed films partly set in Thailand include “Uncommon Valor” (1983), with a scene depicting the Laotian-Thai border that was filmed in Hawaii; and “Missing in Action” (1984) and “Braddock: Missing in Action III”(1988), Chuck Norris' films were partially set in Bangkok but filmed in the Philippines. [Source: Wikipedia+]

” Brokedown Palace” (1999), about two young women who end up in a Thai prison after being duped to smuggle drugs, is sort of like Thai version of “Midnight Express” (about an American man who ends up in a Turkish jail after being caught with some hashish). “Brokedown Palace” —directed by Jonathan Kaplan and starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale and Bill Pullman—is about two American friends imprisoned in Thailand for drug smuggling. Because it presents a critical view of the Thai legal system, most scenes were filmed in the Philippines. In the film best friends Alice Marano (Claire Danes) and Darlene Davis (Kate Beckinsale) take a trip to Thailand and meet a charming Australian man, who offers to take them to Hong Kong. They take up the offer. In the airport, the girls are seized by the police and shocked to discover that one of their bags contains heroin. The two girls are interrogated by the Thai police and tricked into signing a confession, and given sentence of 33 years in prison. Most scenes were filmed in the Philippines. +

“Bright Rainbow After the Rain” (2010) is an English-language film directed by a Filipino teacher from the Philippines. Largely produced by Thai students and filmed in Phayao Province, Thailand, it is a heart-warming tale about a rich girl Ana and poor girl Sara who were best friends. Sara has no father and her mother sells vegetables at a market. Ana wants to study overseas. So too does Sara but she feels she is too poor to even think about applying for a scholarship. Ana get a scholarship and helps Sara get one too by stealing Sara's personal information and passport to complete Sara's scholarship application. The director Alejandro Cardeinte is an English teacher teaching at Phayao Pittayakhom School in Thailand. Visit "Bright Rainbow After the Rain" website to watch the full movie for free. +

King and I and Related Films

1) “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946) is the first film adaptation of stories written by Anna Leonowens. The film is banned in Thailand for historical inaccuracies and because Thai authorities feel its depiction of King Mongkut denigrates and trivializes the monarch and the royal family.

“The King and I” is a 1956 musical film directed by Walter Lang, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. It is based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical “The King and I”, which in turn is based on Landon’s book “Anna and the King of Siam”, The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won five. Brynner won the Oscar for best actor. An animated adaptation of the film was made in 1999.

“Anna and the King” (1999) is Andy Tennant's remake of the 1946 film. It starred Jody Foster and Cow Yun-Fat. With a Thai adviser and many Thai actors in the cast, the film went through several rewrites in an effort to win approval by the Thai government so the movie could be made and shown there. However, the screenplay still contained too many inaccuracies, so the production was moved to Malaysia. The film is banned in Thailand, though home-video copies have found their way into the Kingdom and the film has gained a following.

“The King and I” and “Anna and the King of Siam “are based on “The English Governess at the Siamese Court”, a memoir by Anna Leonowens who spent six years in Thailand. She was recruited by the king from Singapore in 1862 to be one of many tutors for his many children. She spent time with king but it is doubtful that she spent must time alone with him. Leonowens’ book contains some elements of truth but, in the eyes of some, borders on being a compete fabrication because she portrays herself as one of the king's trusted advisors. She made a bundle on lecture circuit and wrote two more books on her adventure in Siam.

Leonowens wrote that King Mongkut was both "liberal and beneficent" and "more systematically educated and more capacious devourer of books and news, than perhaps any man of equal rank in our day." She also wrote he was "envious, revengeful, fickle and petulant as he was suspicious and cruel." She called his harem "his own private Utah" (a reference to the polygamous Mormons in Utah) and quoted him as saying, "You are one great difficulty. You are not wise. Wherefore are you so difficult? You are only a woman." The incident in which the King offers to send Abraham Lincoln some elephants to help him during the American Civil War is based on a real event.

The story was embellished further with romantic interludes in “Anna and the King of Siam”, a best-selling 1944 novel by Margaret Landon that was made into a 1946 movie with Rex Harrison, a forgotten 1972 television miniseries, and a 1999 film with Jody Foster and Chow Yun-Fat. The story has also appeared in an animated feature.

Bridge over the River Kwai

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) is based on a novel by Pierre Boulle. Directed by David Lean and starring David Niven, the film is a highly fictionalized account of work on the Death Railway and contains many historical inaccuracies. It was actually filmed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

The real Bridge over the River Kwai is in western Thailand near the Myanmar border. The bridge itself is quite ordinary-looking, with little to set it apart from a run-of-the-mill railway bridge. It spans the Maenam Khwae Yai which is a branch of Maenam Mae Klong. During the Japanese occupation of Thailand in World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army brought the iron bridge from Java. It was then resembled by Allied Prisoners of War (POW) under Japanese supervision. The bridge was part of a strategic railway route to Myanmar in which the Japanese aimed to secure supplies with which to conquer other western Asian countries. The railway was 415 kilometers long (with about 303 kilometers in Thailand and about 112 kilometers in Burma) and passed through the Three Pagoda Pass in Sangkhlaburi District, the northern most part of Kanchanaburi province.

Construction started on September 16, 1942 at Nong Pladuk, and was completed 17 months later on December 25, 1943 when the rails were joined 37 kilometers south of Three Pagoda’s Pass. Because the terrain was so mountainous, construction crews had to build several high bridges and make deep cuts into mountains and passes. “Hellfire Pass” was the name POWs gave to he largest of the mountain cuttings. More than a kilometers long, it was created in 12 weeks using hammers, picks, steel tap drills, dynamite, and shovels by 1,000 Australian and British POWs working 12 to 18 hour shifts. The name of the pass described the way it looked a at night when the workers labored by torchlight. By the time they were finished 70 percent of the POW crew was dead. A Japanese brothel train inaugurated the line when it opened. The railway was in use for 20 months before the Allies closed by bombing he bridge.

It is estimated that over 16,000 POWs from England, Australia, Holland and America died while building the bridge which was a target of bombing raids in 1945. In addition to this, as many as 150,000 laborers from Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia died during its construction. Rebuilt after WWII, the bridge is still in use today with the curved portions of the bridge being that of the original.

Films Shot in Thailand

“Chang” (1927) – Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack were assisted by Prince Yugala Dighambara in the production of their silent docudrama about a family of subsistence farmers living in the jungle, battling elephants, tigers and other animals. Among the cast is a gibbon named Bimbo. [Source: Wikipedia]

“Around the World in Eighty Days” (1956) – Director Michael Todd was able to borrow one of the royal barges of King Bhumibol Adulyadej when the production was in Bangkok.

“The Ugly American”(1963) – Thai statesman Kukrit Pramoj appeared on screen with Marlon Brando, portraying the prime minister of the fictional Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan. He was later elected Prime Minister of Thailand, serving in office in 1975-76.

“Cutthroat Island” (1995) – Renny Harlin's swashbuckler was filmed on location in Maya Bay, which would later be used for The Beach.

“In the Mood for Love” (2000) – Wong Kar-wai's love story starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai is set in 1960s Hong Kong but exterior scenes were filmed in Bangkok. “2046" – Wong Kar-wai's follow-up to In the Mood for Love was filmed partially in Bangkok, and the film underwent post-production processing at Bangkok's Kantana Group labs, where the director made last-minute edits to the film before delivering it late to the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Films Shot in Thailand in the Early 2000s

“Two Brothers” (2004) – This family-friendly story about two tigers had some scenes made in Samut Prakan Province, at a tourist site called Mueang Boran (Ancient City), which has scaled-down replicas of many of Thailand's important structures. The tigers used in the film were from the Si Racha Tiger Zoo near Pattaya. The film was set in neighboring Cambodia, and many locations were used there was well. [Source: Wikipedia]

“Alexander” (2004)– Oliver Stone's epic starring Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great was filmed along the Mekong in northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province and in Saraburi Province. Royal Thai Army soldiers were used as extras. Thai actors Bin Bunluerit and Jaran Ngamdee portrayed an Indian king and an Indian prince respectively.

“Around the World in 80 Days” (2004) – This Jackie Chan/Steve Coogan remake of the 1956 film was also filmed in Thailand, with scenes shot in Krabi that were meant to take place in a rural village in China. Sammo Hung makes an appearance as Wong Fei Hung.

“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” (2004) – Made in Bangkok and Phuket, including Bangkok's Soi Cowboy. Tabloid reports that Hugh Grant was chased by bargirls were false.

“Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith” (2005) – The approach to Kashyyyk, the Wookiee homeworld, was filmed around Krabi Province by Santa Film International.[4]

“Stealth” (2005) – Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel and Josh Lucas portray high-tech US Navy aviators. Rest and relaxation scenes are set in Thailand and were filmed on The Beach island, Ko Phi Phi Leh. Neighboring Myanmar is the setting for a missile target, but those scenes were filmed in Australia.

“Blackbeard” (2005) – with Angus Macfadyen, Stacy Keach, Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward - was filmed in Suratthani and Nakorn Si Thammarat in southern Thailand by Living Films. The story depicts the exploits of English pirate Edward Teach, better known as Captain Blackbeard. Blackbeard roamed the Caribbean in the 18th century. The swashbuckling adventure story appears to take place primarily in the Caribbean city of New Providence in 1717.

Films Shot in Thailand in the Late 2000s

“Tsunami: The Aftermath” (2006) – The HBO-BBC joint production came to Phuket in April–June 2006 to film mini-series about the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the resulting tsunami that hit Phuket. [Source: Wikipedia]

“American Gangster” (2007) – directed by Ridley Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, the story of an American heroin smuggler was filmed in November 2006 in Chiang Mai.

“Croc” (2007) - This Thai Occidental Productions movie about a large man-eating crocodile, was filmed in Thailand in 2006. Michael Madsen, who plays a crocodile-hunter in the film, was in Thailand for the filming. The movie has played on Sky One in the U.K., the Sci Fi Channel (United States) channel in the U.S., and Star Movies in Asia.

“The Hangover Part II” (2011)

Martial Arts and James Bond Films Shot in Thailand

“The Big Boss” (1971) – Bruce Lee portrays a young fighter from Guangdong who comes to Thailand to sort out his life and finds a job working in an icehouse. He tries to be peaceful, but they just keep pushing him. [Source: Wikipedia]

“Duel of Fists” (1971) – David Chiang travels to Bangkok looking for his long-lost brother (Ti Lung), who's a muay Thai boxer in this Shaw Brothers Studio film by Chang Cheh. Pawana Chanachit co-starred as a love interest for Chiang's character. Locations include the Dusit Thani Hotel on Rama IV Road, long before overpass bridges and the Bangkok Skytrain were built, as well as the Siam Intercontinental, since razed to make way for Siam Paragon.

“Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” (1997) – Tony Jaa worked as a stunt double and went on to become a major Thai action star. Filming was in historic old Ayutthaya, where a minor stir was caused when scantily-clad foreign women were filmed dancing on top of some sacred ruins. Mortal Kombat (1995) also was made in Thailand, around Sukhothai historical park. The opening and closing scenes in Mortal Kombat are also filmed in Ayutthaya.

“The Medallion” (2003) – Jackie Chan's action picture was filmed in Thailand under the working title, Highbinders.

“Belly of the Beast” (2003) – Steven Seagal portrays a former CIA agent who searches in Thailand for his kidnapped daughter. Co-stars Thai actors Sarah Malakul, Pongpat Wachirabanjong and Chakrit Yamnam.[3]

“The Man with the Golden Gun” with Roger Moore as James Bond was shot in Phang Nga Bay near Phuket. Bond attended a boxing match at Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district. One of the islands seen in the film is known as the "Nail" island (or Ko Khao Tapoo). This island houses the solar panels. The hideout of Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) is actually Ko Kow-Phing-Khan. Both islands are now tourist attractions. The "nail" island is referred to as "James Bond Island" in tourist literature. The location was extremely hard hit by a tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

The 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” with Michelle Yeoh was shot in Bangkok and Phuket. The film was originally supposed to be shot in Vietnam but authorities revoked permission at the last minute. Two weeks in Bangkok and one week in Phuket reportedly cost $4 million. Bangkok stands in for Ho Chi Minh City. Scaramanga's island is seen, as Phang Nga Bay substitutes for Halong Bay.

Vietnam War and Cambodia -Themed Films Shot in Thailand

“Deer Hunter” and “Good Morning Vietnam” are two films about the Vietnam War shave been shot in the Thailand. “The Killing Fields”, about the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia, was also shot in Thailand.

1) “The Deer Hunter” (1978) – The Russian roulette bar was in Patpong in Bangkok, while the POW camp was in Sai Yok, Kanchanaburi Province. 2) “Uncommon Valor” (1983) - set in Laos but filmed partly in Bangkok - Laos scenery was filmed in Hawaii. 3) “The Killing Fields” (1984) – Locations in Hua Hin and Phuket stood in for Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia. Actor Spalding Gray recounts the film's shoot in his monologue, Swimming to Cambodia. [Source: Wikipedia]

4) “Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985) – Sylvester Stallone's super soldier goes to Vietnam (actually Thailand) looking for his POW buddies. Followed by Rambo III', set in Afghanistan but partially shot in Thailand. 5) “Good Morning Vietnam” (1987) – Thai actress Jintara Sukapat portrayed the love interest for Robin Williams' character. Filmed on location in Bangkok (standing in for pre-1975 Saigon). 6) “Off Limits” (1988) – Christopher Crowe's Vietnam War crime thriller featured Willem Dafoe and Gregory Hines. The film is also known as “Saigon” . 7) “Casualties of War”(1989) – Brian De Palma's Vietnam War saga was filmed around Phuket and Kanchanaburi.

8) “Air America” (1990) – Mae Hong Son Province in northern Thailand stands in for Secret War-era Laos. The film later attracted tourism to the region and was featured on the cover of Conde Nast Traveller in May 1993. 9) “Heaven & Earth” (1993) – Oliver Stone's Vietnam War-era drama was made in Thailand. 10) “Operation Dumbo Drop” (1995) – Walt Disney Pictures' Vietnam War comedy-drama features Thai elephants.

11) “City of Ghosts” (2002) – Matt Dillon's noirish thriller was set in Cambodia and mostly filmed there, but some scenes were shot in Thailand, and many of the crew were Thai people. 12) “Journey from the Fall”(2006) – Unable to make his film at home, Vietnamese director Ham Tran came to Thailand to make his drama about Vietnam's re-education camps and the experience of boat people. 13) “Rambo” (2007) – Sylvester Stallone returned to Thailand to make the fourth installment in his Rambo franchise, directing and starring as the Vietnam War veteran who takes on a mission to protect Christian missionaries delivering aid to the Karen people in Myanmar. Filming was due to start in January 2007. “Rescue Dawn” (2007) – Werner Herzog came to Thailand in August 2005 to direct this true story of pilot Dieter Dengler and his escape from a POW camp during the Vietnam War. Stars Christian Bale and Steve Zahn.

The Beach

The 1999 Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach”—about a group of world travelers, who attempted to establish a utopia with disastrous results—was shot in Khao Yai National Park and Maya Beach in Phi Phi in Thailand. It was based on a first novel by Alex Garland.

You would thinks the Thai s would be thrilled to have such an illustrious actor doing a film in Thailand but that was not the case. The movie was condemned for being irreverent towards Buddhism and depicting Thailand as a haven for drug users. Thirty-eight Thai environmental groups called for an investigation into the film, claiming that the planting of 93 palm trees on Maya Beach degraded the environment (A 2006 court ruling held that 20th Century Fox was among the parties responsible for damages). The groups also claimed film crews damaged coral reefs. A sit in staged by 10 or so protesters was broken up by a 100 or thugs led by the deputy governor of Krabi.

DiCaprio went everywhere with two bodyguards. Rumors were spread that: 1) he didn't like Asian girls, 2) he got one of his co-stars pregnant and 3) he was afraid of being poisoned and food tasters tested his food. In an attempt to generate some positive publicity DiCaprio did photo ops with monks and autograph seekers.

Bangkok Dangerous

“Bangkok Dangerous” (also called “Big Hit in Bangkok” or “Time to Kill”) (2008) is a remake of “Bangkok Dangerous” a Thai film by the Pang Brothers. It stars Nicolas Cage and Charlie Yeung and started shooting in Bangkok in August 2006. Production was delayed by a coup d'état.

Cage's production company, Saturn Films, purchased the remake rights. It began filming in Bangkok in August 2006, with locations that include Soi Cowboy. The plot: Joe is a professional hit man who picks someone off the street to do his errands, and after he is finished kills that person. His next assignment takes him to Bangkok, and as usual, he finds a street-wise guy named Kong to help him. After Kong has a close call and learns who Joe is, Kong asks him to train him and he does. Joe also meets a local girl who is deaf and spends time with her. However, Joe has a hard time keeping his other life from her. It also appears that the person who hired Joe, breaks his rule of complete anonymity and tries to find him. [Source: IMBD, written by ]

The original film's main character is a deaf hitman, whose disability makes him a fearless, unflinching gunman. That character has been changed in the remake. "We'd like to keep him the same, but we understand that from a marketing point of view Nic needs to have some lines," Oxide was quoted as saying in the New York Times. "So what we’re going to do is transform his girlfriend instead into a deaf-mute. This switch will maintain the drama of communication between the two main characters." The film received mostly negative reviews. Based on the bloody finale and depressing conclusion, Ross Fleming, British reviewer in Hong Kong, sarcastically referred to the film as 'the feel-good movie of the year’. film has grossed US$40,732,950, of which $15,298,133 was from the US. Lionsgate distribution topper Steve Rothenberg said, "It will be a nicely profitable film for us."

The Hangover Part II

Two years after their escapade in Las Vegas, Stu (Ed Helms), Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are traveling to Thailand to celebrate Stu's wedding to his fiancée, Lauren (Jamie Chung). Much to Alan's dismay, they are joined by Lauren's younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee), a prodigy and pre-medical student at Stanford University. At the wedding reception, Lauren's father shows his disapproval of Stu by comparing him to rice porridge in his toast. At the end of the night, Stu hesitantly joins Phil, Doug, Alan and Teddy for a beer. Sitting at a campfire and roasting marshmallows, the group toast to Stu and Lauren's future happiness. [Source: IMDB]

The following morning, Phil, Stu and Alan, along with gangster Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) (whom Alan befriended after Las Vegas) and a chainsmoking capuchin monkey, awaken in a dirty hotel room in Bangkok. Stu has a face tattoo, and Alan's head is completely shaven. However, they cannot find Teddy, only discovering his severed finger. Chow begins recalling the events of the prior night, but his heart stops after snorting a line of cocaine. Panicked, the trio dispose of Chow's body in an ice machine.

Through Doug (who left early the preceding night and is still at the resort where the wedding is to be held), they find out that Teddy is waiting in jail. Upon arriving at the prison, they are given a handicapped elderly Buddhist monk, who has taken a vow of silence. The trio and the monk travel to a bar after finding a business card only to see the entire neighborhood smouldering in ruins. They enter a nearby tattoo parlor, where they are told that they had started a fight in the club that escalated into a riot. The trio then return the monk to his Buddhist temple, where they are encouraged by the head monk to meditate to help remember past events. Alan is able to recall a strip club that they had gone to. There, they learn that Stu had engaged in sex with a katoey prostitute at the bar (with Stu being on the receiving end). Upon exiting, the trio are attacked by two Russian mobsters from whom they had apparently stolen the monkey, and Phil is shot in the arm.

After Phil is treated at a clinic, Alan confesses that he had drugged some of the marshmallows from the previous night with muscle relaxants and ADHD medication in order to sedate Teddy but accidentally mixed up the bags. Stu attacks Alan leading them to notice an address and time point for a meeting written on Alan's stomach. The trio arrive at a luxurious hotel to find another gangster, Kingsley (Paul Giamatti), who demands Chow's bank account code and password by the next morning in exchange for Teddy. They return to the hotel to try to find Chow's password, only to discover that he is still alive. After Chow explains that he had hidden the code in the monkey's jacket, they steal the monkey back from the Russian mobsters through a violent car chase, during which the monkey is shot and injured. After taking the code and leaving the monkey at a veterinary clinic, the group return to Kingsley's hotel to complete the deal. Suddenly, Interpol agents appear and arrest Chow. Kingsley turns out to be an undercover agent, who tells the trio that the police have searched all day for Teddy but were unable to find him.

Desperate and out of clues, Phil once again calls Doug's wife Tracy to inform her of their dilemma. Stu then has an epiphany and realizes that Teddy must have woken up in the middle of the night to get more ice for his severed finger (after the first bucket of ice had melted) but became trapped after the power went out while he was ascending. The trio rush back to the hotel and find Teddy in the elevator unharmed (albeit still missing a finger). The four use Chow's speedboat, the keys for which were in Teddy's pocket, to travel back to the wedding reception. Arriving just as Lauren's father is about to cancel the wedding, Stu makes a defiant speech where he rejects being boring and instead states that he is in fact quite wild. Impressed by Stu's sudden display of authority and confidence, Lauren's father finally accepts him and gives the couple his blessing. After the wedding continues on, Alan presents Stu with a special gift at the post-reception dance: a musical guest performance by Mike Tyson. Later at night as Phil, Stu, Alan, Doug, and Tyson reminisce about all of their crazy escapades, Teddy discovers that he had taken many pictures during the night on his mobile phone. Once again, the group agree to look at the pictures together once before erasing the evidence of their exploits.

Lost in Thailand: Lowbrow, Low-Budget Film BecomesChina’s Biggest Hit

Austin Ramzy wrote in Time magazine, “”Lost in Thailand”” is by any measure a ridiculous movie. Two Chinese colleagues race to find their boss at a remote monastery in Thailand, battling bad traffic, gangsters, a snake, a kickboxer and, most important, each other, all in an effort to win the rights to an improbable invention: Super Gas, a liquid that turns a little bit of gasoline into a lot. Somehow it is doing ridiculously well. With a budget of less than $6 million, the film has earned $193 million since it opened Dec. 12, making it China’s most profitable film and pulling in more viewers than foreign hits such as Avatar and the third Transformers, according to a report in the Caixin business journal. [Source: Austin Ramzy, Time magazine, January 17, 2013]

“While those films relied on big-budget special effects, the action scenes in “Lost in Thailand” look like something out of a Leslie Nielsen film. The plot feels like a rehash of “The Hangover Part II and Planes, Trains and Automobiles” . Without a terribly original script or eye-catching pyrotechnics, what has made Lost in Thailand such a hit? It’s a question that the rest of the film industry badly wants to answer.

“The film is a successor to Lost on Journey, a send up of the tribulations that Chinese face each year when they travel home for the Chinese New Year. Lost in Thailand takes the same formula and transfers it abroad to one of Chinese tourists’ favorite destinations. Xu Lang, played by the film’s director, Xu Zheng, is a savvy scientist transfixed on bringing his invention to market. He is racing his former friend and rival Gao Bo, played by Huang Bo, to find their boss at a rural Thai monastery to win approval of their respective development plans. On the flight, Xu meets Wang Bao, a simpleminded pancake maker from Beijing, clad in full tourist regalia, including the red hat from his tour group, and carrying a long list of goals for his voyage, including, of course, seeing Thai transvestites, or “ladyboys.” Wang, played by Wang Baoqiang, is something of a Chinese everyman, silly and easily mocked, wanting to photograph himself flashing a peace sign in front of everything, including the hotel chairs. But the obtuse pancake flipper has an honest heart and ultimately proves wiser than Xu or the comic villain Gao.

“The film has been largely well received in Thailand, which has cringed at the portrayal of over-the-top Bangkok nightlife in films like The Hangover Part II. But because of Chinese censorship, Lost in Thailand couldn’t get that crazy even if the filmmakers wanted to. So ladyboys are the subject of just one joke that cracks more fun at the wild imaginations of the Chinese characters than at Thai transvestites. A Bangkok Post columnist wrote that while it was easy to assume Lost in Thailand was “a mindless, lowbrow slapstick comedy with calamity, insensitive jokes against other people (and sometimes other countries),” it turned out “the movie is comparatively culturally sensitive.” A lesson, perhaps, for Hollywood.

Tony Jaa

Panom Yeerum (Tony Jaa) was born on February 5, 1976, in the northeastern province of Surin, Thailand. His parents were elephant herders. Panom watched martial arts films as a young kid and began to emulate some of his idols, from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan to Jet Li. After seeing the Thai action film Born to Fight (2004) ("Born to Fight"), Panom met and studied martial arts and stunt work as a teen under the director of that film, Panna Rittikrai. Panom went to university where he studied a variety of martial arts, from tae kwondo to judo. It was not long before Panom would get work, doubling for Robin Shou and James Remar in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), and when his demo reel was seen by director Prachya Pinkaew, the film Ong-bak (2003) was created for Panom, who is now going by the name of Tony Jaa in hopes of bringing his style of action to international audiences. In May 2010, he joined monastic order of a Buddhist temple in Surin, Thailand.[Source: IMDB]

Highly Skilled in Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, swordplay and gymnastics, Jaa is a stunt-man turned actor who does not use any wire work or CG effects in his stunts. Is actually of Cambodian descent, more known as "Khmer Surin", He speaks Thai, Khmer and he is learning English.. Does 8 hours of gymnastics, Muay Thai, and other sports training a day.

Jaa was Robin Shou's stunt double in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997). Watching Jackie Chan movies and a Thai movie called Born to Fight (2004) ("Born to Fight") influenced him to do stuntwork and eventually become a action star, but he says his biggest influence is Bruce Lee. He said: “Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Bruce Lee are my masters; they're the inspiration for my work. Bruce Lee was a heavy fighter who threw hard punches. Jackie moves very fast and uses a lot of comedy, and Jet Li is very fluid. I've tried to combine all of their styles and added some things of my own.

Tony Jaa’s films including The Protector 2 (2013); Ong Bak 3 (2010); Ong Bak 2 (2008); The Bodyguard 2 (2007); The Protector )2005); Tom yum goong: The game (Video Game) (2005); The Bodyguard (2004), Supermarket Fighter (as Panom Yeerum); Ong-bak (2003); Nuk leng klong yao (2001); Mission Hunter 2 (1996); Puen hode (1996); Plook mun kuen ma kah 4 (1994)

Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak

In a review of the film “Ong-Bak” (“The Next Action Hero”), Richard Corliss wrote in Time magazine:” A Bunch of villains chases the hero through back streets clogged with human traffic. Nothing new there. But watch the way Thailand's Tony Jaa uses his daredevil energy and grace to obliterate action-movie clichés in the pummeling, exhilarating “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior”. With a spring in his sneakers, he vaults over a pyramid of tires, a flotilla of cars and a class of children while being pursued by a gang of thugs. He dives through a ring of barbed wire, glides under moving vehicles. He jogs up pedestrians' backs and tiptoes on their heads. In this thrilling 5 1/2-min. scene, Jaa defies gravity, death, logic and all those out-of-breath bad guys.” [Source: Richard Corliss, Time magazine, January 30, 2005,++]

“Action-movie stars have become geriatric lately...The genre needs another hero, and Jaa (Thai name: Phanom Yeerum) is the fellow to fill the void. He's young--28--and good-looking, with a quiet élan to match his athletic skill. He's also a throwback to kung-fu film's early days, when stars and stunt men alike took a licking and kept on kicking. Ong-Bak has no crouching, no hiding, no wires, no pixel-perfected stunts. Like Jackie Chan's early epics, it convinces you that the mayhem is real, that the star is enduring the pain for your pleasure. "Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Bruce Lee are my masters--they're the inspiration for my work," says Jaa, speaking through an interpreter. "Bruce Lee was a heavy fighter who threw hard punches. Jackie moves very fast and uses a lot of comedy, and Jet Li is very fluid. I've tried to combine all of their styles and added some things of my own." ++

“With its primitive action premise (a sacred MacGuffin has been stolen; you go get it back), Ong-Bak needs the things Jaa can add. And there are plenty. As Ting, a country-boy studying to be a monk who has been taught Muay Thai martial arts and goes to Bangkok to retrieve a missing Buddha head, Jaa battles a series of Asian and Caucasian bruisers with fists, feet, elbows, head--he uses them all in his full-body barrage--with a sleek intensity and jaw-swiveling impact unique in movie martial arts. He also knows how to take a fall. In one match, he gets on the wrong end of a killer kick and executes a triple twist before hitting the canvas, as if Greg Louganis were doing a gold-medal dive from a curb into a puddle. And stick around for Jaa's higher, higher, pants-on-fire stunt, in which he twirls and kicks while swathed in flames.” ++

“Like most other martial-arts stars, Jaa has been preparing since childhood. Born to elephant trainers in the hard-luck northeast province of Surin, the boy watched kung-fu movies on outdoor screens during temple festivals. Soon he was aping his heroes and studying gymnastics as well as Muay Thai, an ancient Siamese boxing discipline that is a kind of combination of karate and kickboxing. He worked as a stunt man, doubling Robin Shou in Mortal Kombat, before director Prachya Pinkaew saw a reel of Jaa's best stunts and built Ong-Bak around him. ++

“A huge hit in Thailand, Ong-Bak generated brisk box office in Asia, then in Europe after French auteur Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element) bought the rights to the film, trimmed a few minutes and slapped on a new music track. Even before its February opening in 20 U.S. cities, the movie has sparked a rabid cult, thanks to festival showings, bootleg DVD imports and Internet downloading. ++

“Jaa has picked up heavyweight Hollywood fans, from Brett Ratner, director of Chan's Rush Hour smashes, to Quentin Tarantino, who screened Ong-Bak at his home with his pal the RZA of the iconic rap group Wu-Tang Clan. "Tony is my homey, yo," says the RZA. "He's young, energetic—a new breed of martial artist born in the hip-hop generation." That's a big claim for a guy with just one starring role. Jaa still lacks Chan's Everyman charisma, Jet Li's eerie agility, Lee's smoldering gravity. Now working on his second feature with Pinkaew, Tom Yum Goong, Jaa says, "I want a strong foundation in Thailand. Hollywood? Maybe in the future." So give him a year or two. That could be when, in hip-hop-Hollywood terms, Jaa rules. ++

Death of David Carradine in Bangkok

In June 2009, 72-year-old actor David Carradine was found dead in his room at the luxury Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel in Bangkok in an apparent suicide. Police said body was found “naked hanging in a closet” in his hotel room with a rope tied around his neck, wrist and genitals. An investigator told AP: “I can confirm we found his body naked, hanging in the closet.” Carradine’s cause of death was listed as accidental suffocation due to “autoerotic asphyxiation.”

“Autoerotic asphyxiation” involves temporarily cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain to heighten the effects of a sexual orgasm. Carradine’s body was found by a chambermaid. An autopsy was performed in a Bangkok hospital because of the “unusual circumstances surrounding Carradine’s death.” Carradine’s family hired New York-based forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, the host of cable channel HBO's "Autopsy" series, to conduct a follow-up death investigation to the one handled by Thai authorities. His initial assessment was: "He didn't die of natural causes, and he didn't die of suicidal causes from the nature of the ligatures around the body, so that leaves some kind of accidental death.”

Kung fu and the Chinese martial arts were first brought to the attention of American audiences by the 1970s television series Kung Fu, which starred Carradine. Before that the most well known martial arts in the states—judo and karate—were from Japan. In the show David Carradine played Kwai Chang Caine, better known as Grasshopper. Stoic, deliberate, aloof and metaphorical no matter what was thrown at him, he delivered lines like “Let the passion pass through you like the wind” and “the warrior destiny is always a broken path” and fought with kind a dreamy style that was much slower and fluid than the frenetic almost slapstick style seen in many king fu movies.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Jukka O. Miettinen, Asian Traditional Theater and Dance, Theatre Academy Helsinki, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2014

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