You saw the Cannes sizzle reel for Ong Bak 2 and promptly said “holy shit, I have to see that!” Tony Jaa saw his balance sheet partway through finishing the film and said “Loki’s teeth, I have to get out of here!”
One of the strangest stories of the year has been Tony Jaa’s disappearance and subsequent tearful return to the set of Ong Bak 2. No one knows exactly why Jaa skipped out on set a few weeks ago, sparking rumors of kidnapping and of Jaa practicing black magic in the forest. Perhaps Jaa, as a relatively inexperienced director, was overwhelmed by the production, or perhaps he didn’t have the money to finish the film as the budget had swelled to over 200 million Baht. (That’s about $6m USD, which is huge for a Thai flick; one report says that the original budget of $2.7m USD has grown to around $8m USD.) Regardless, he returned last week, appearing tearful on Thai television along with his lawyer to say he planned on finishing the film. He’d simply been meditating in the forest, trying to get his head around the task of finishing the film. His mantra: “Dave Chappelle”.
Variety’s Asian branch reported last week that a few days before Jaa’s return Prachya Pinkaew, director of the original Ong Bak, said he’ll take over editing duties on the sequel, and that he might direct the last parts of the film. “Jaa has little experience directing. 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.” Pinkaew had advised the inexperienced Jaa against directing the flick himself, and supposedly their relationship was damaged when he went on to tackle the film.
That’s not even the end of it. After his return last week Jaa issued a set of seven demands, as reported by Twitch today. They are:
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.
Jaa reportedly said if those demands weren’t met he’d skip out again, and for good, after which he flicked a bead of sweat from the tip of his nose and flexed his forearms. He didn’t impress anyone, though, because yesterday he walked into a police station claiming he was being followed by ‘mysterious men’. Not long afterward, reports the US branch of Variety, Jaa met with Somsak Techaratanaprasert, head of Sahamongkol Film Int’l. The upshot is that Jaa dropped his demands, and Techaratanaprasert will finance the rest of the film “under the supervision of director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittkrai”.
Let’s have the biopic, and let’s have it now.