R.I.P. Tony Jaa

by Billy Fisher

OK, so Tony Jaa is not dead, but I think his career might be heading in that direction.  The poor guy has hopped on the crazy train, and I don't see any signs that the train is stopping anytime soon.  Here's the rundown. 

A few months ago Twitch released a promo video for the movie Ong Bak 2, and that was freakin awesome!  I am a huge fan of the first film.  I would never want to be in a Thai action movie because it looks like those dudes don't hold back.  They will hit you as hard as they can in order to get a good shot.  This is also when I found out that Tony Jaa is one bad mofo.  TJ does things that I can only dream of doing.  Apparently, however, there is one thing this Thai firecracker can't do, that is handle the pressure of directing and star in a movie.  Hold onto your butts because here comes the crazy!

A few weeks ago TJ just disappeared.  It was so sudden that there were rumors floating around like he was kidnapped or he practicing black magic in the forrest.  There was some speculation that TJ was buckling under the pressure of the movie.  One of the problems was the budget, he was given $2.7 million.  With about 20% of the movie still to be filmed, it is rumored that the budget has ballooned up to around $8 million.  Talk about staying in budget.  Anyway, about a week ago looney tunes TJ and his lawyer appeared on a Thai TV show.  Through tears TJ announced that he plans on finishing his film.  He says that he was in the forest meditating, focusing on the project at hand.  

I have to give him credit though.  This is his first film and you are bound to make some mistakes.  Like spending 3 years on one project and going over the budget by millions of dollars.  At least he doesn't live in an impoverished country where the millions of dollars could be used to feed their citizens.  A couple of days before his triumphant, yet tearful, return to the project, the director of the original Ong Bak, Prachya Pinkaew had this to say to Variety's Asian branch:

"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."

This is where things get worse for our friend TJ.  Tony seems to think that the little stunt he pulled gave him some kind of leverage to demand more.  TJ has a list of seven demands that must be met before he will continue the filming of Ong Bak 2.  Thanks to Twitch for bringing this list to us, and the demands are as follows:

1. He wants an extra 55 million baht to finish the last 20 percent of the film. That does not include the cost of the film, actor hire, studio hire, theatre run.
2. Jaa wants the right to choose his own production crew, which would include Ong-Bak 2’s producer and Jaa’s mentor, Panna Rittikrai
3. Jaa’s personal manager would have the right to oversee the accounts for the total production
4. He would have the film finished by November 30
5. He wants details concerning the actor’s fee, and his director’s fee
6. Jaa would like a 50-million-baht share of the profits from distribution and ticket sales. Previously, Jaa and Sahamongkol Film agreed that he would get a 25 percent share of net revenue from those sources
7. An end to the contract that Jaa signed for acting services with Sahamongkol.

As if those demands weren't bad enough, there was a threat that accompanied the demands.  TJ said that if his demands were not met he would disappear again, and this time he would never be heard from again.  Well, I guess no one was scared of cuckoo bird because the day after he placed his demands he waltzed into the local police station complaining that he was being followed by 'mysterious men'.  Mr. Jaa must have an angel on his shoulder, because the head of Sahamongkol Film Int'l, Somsak Techaratanaprasert, showed up at the police station to work things out.  In the end Techaratanaprasert convinced TJ to drop his demands, return to the film, and he would finance rest of the film.  The only stipulation was that TJ had to agree to do the film "under the supervision of director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittkrai".

People say that I am crazy, but I think that Tony Jaa takes the cake.  I am glad to see that things are back in order for this movie to be finished.  I felt that this story is worth reading for anyone interested in film making.  I wanted you all to know what not to do if you are given the job to direct a film.  I will keep you posted if anything else comes out of this story.  Until then, let me know what you think.

McMurphy Out!

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