Straight from the press kit comes an article about Ong Bak 2: The Beginning's actor and director Tony Jaa.
Tony Jaa’s devotion to the new role of actor/director.A young nobleman bears witness to the massacre of his family at the hands of a treacherous and power-crazed warlord. Bent on revenge, he joins a band of guerrilla fighters who school him in a dizzying array of martial arts and weaponry techniques before unleashing him on his unwavering mission to avenge his family's murder.
All-star cast and crew help guarantee superior quality.
It’s not surprising for a top action hero like Tony Jaa to say that he has put all of his effort, his heart and soul into making ONG BAK 2: THE BEGINNING the best that he could. With more than two years of shooting and hundreds of scenes to be completed, Jaa needed to assemble a team of top-class professionals help him. His dream team includes some of the best in the business. Nattawut Kittikhun serves as the cinematographer. His works include The Legend of King Naresuan, Overture, Nang Nak, Ong Bak, and The Protector. Ek Iemcheun serves as both production design supervisor and screenplay writer. His past production design works include The Tin 8 Mine, Nang Nak, Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters, Queen of Langasuka, and Jan Dara. Banpot Ngamkham serves as the film’s Art Director. He has been responsible for art direction and has finding shooting locations for several of Thailand’s top directors such as Nonzee Nimibutr, Wisit Sasanatieng, Jira Malikul and many others. Moreover, as a co-director, Jaa is responsible for almost two hundred crew members. He and his crew have traveled to shooting locations in all regions of Thailand. “When I was an actor, I was concerned only about my script. I had to do my homework. I had to study the character and the movements. But now that I’m the director, I have to truly understand the whole picture. For example, I have to study all kinds of martial arts, Buddhist beliefs about faith and karma, the consequences of happiness and sorrow. I had to be scrupulous on every detail. I surveyed the locations myself, whether it was sea, land, forest or mountain. We have been to all over the country, including Pu Chee Fah Peak in Chiang Rai, Pa Bong Peak in Loei to shoot the thieves’ haven scenes, Surin province for the elephant catching scenes, Rayong province where we built a several-story-high large-scale pavilion on a 40,000 square-meter land, and also in Saraburi, Nakonratchasima, Ubonratchathani, Krabi and other places. I had to go to the area myself. I even had to fly to a rock castle in Cambodia to study rock carvings of various Khon moves.”
Another challenging role for Jaa is assembling the cast of Thailand’s premiere actors and actresses. “I did the casting myself. I thank all of the actors and actresses for having faith in me, and for giving me great performances. I could say being a director is one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I never dreamed I would have to direct a group of Thailand’s elite stars, including Ake Sorapong, Ning Nirut, Noom Santisuk, Tua Saranyu, Dee Pattama, Mum Petchtai, Tok Supakorn, Jaja Primrata, Nga Caravan, Teacher Phillip, Yokyek Chernyim, Hammer band, and my beloved brother Dan Chupong. I’m also grateful to all of the participating martial arts masters, including master Pom – Muay Thai master; master Surin – the sword master; master Ta – the Japanese martial arts master; master Cheewin – the Kung Fu master; and many other actors. It’s so wonderful to have such top-class actors and actresses in ONG BAK 2: THE BEGINNING. Panna Rittikrai, the other co-director, production supervisor, and Tony Jaa’s mentor, gives an interesting point of view regarding the rise to director’s chair of one of the world’s top martial arts heroes. Panna himself made his directorial debut when he was only 24.
“Some might see that it’s too soon for Tony Jaa to be a director of his only third film. But I believe people who know martial arts best are martial arts fighters themselves, people like Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. Look at Bruce Lee for example, he starred in the first two films The Big Boss and Fist of Fury before directing the third film Way of the Dragon when he was 32. Jackie Chan became a co-director for Fearless Hyena when he was only 25. Now Jaa is a director when he is 32. Even though it is only his third film, but he’s been in the world of martial arts with me for 19 years already. “He really put his effort into the filmmaking process. He studied the characters thoroughly. He also got a great support like Teacher Aew who helped disintegrate the layers of the characters so he could see them from their perspectives. He might be tentative at first for having to direct veteran actors, but once he got familiar with them and understood the characters more clearly with the help of Teacher Aew, the hesitation was gone. Elite actors like Ning Nirut or Ake Sorapong play off other people’s emotion brilliantly. They helped elevate the 9 performances of other actors, including Jaa himself. There was a key scene between
Sorapong and Jaa in which tears ran down exactly on queue. This is something we martial arts fighters have never seen before. But it left great influence on Jaa’s performance.”
Another noticeable change in ONG BAK 2: THE BEGINNING is about the action hero himself. Panna explains that the audience will see Tony Jaa in a new look, along with his deeper emotional expression. “In his first two films, Jaa would try to avoid making long conversation or expressing emotions. He never had an acting class before. But he was willing to expand his acting skills for this film. So he studied the art of acting with Teacher Aew (Ornchuma Yuthawong), studied Khon with Teacher Chet (Pichet Kluncheun). These two teachers are top people in their areas in the international level. As for martial arts aspect, he also studied with Samurai master, Kung Fu master, Indian sword master, and even Muay Thai master, so that he could understand the way of that martial arts form better. What he had learned from me initially was mainly for stunt work, for entertainment. But when he had a chance to really study the art of fighting, he could see the depth of martial arts spirit. There are two changes that the audience will see in this film regarding Tony Jaa. The first one is his serious dramatic emotions, both on the bright side and the dark side. The second change is the spirituality in his fighting, which is caused by his study of Khon. Practicing Khon dancing helped him meditate and be in a trance, and thus discovered his inner peace and serenity, which he also expresses through his character. Jaa agrees that it is a complete transformation of himself as an actor from Ong Bak and The Protector.
“My character is multi-dimensional. He has something in his mind. He has good side and bad side. He longs for love, but he is also harsh and ruthless. It is not easy to portray all that emotions. Normally I would only have one face in the film. The “Arrrgh!” face. But for this film, I needed to run my emotions deeper. When I was taking acting classes with Teacher Aew Ornchuma, she teased me that it was time to change, that I don’t have to yell every time I’m beating up people. She asked “Why do stunt people have to yell at each other every time they meet?” Some veteran actors also offered me acting tips. Tua Saranyu would tell me when I went overboard. I would talk to Ake Sorapong. They would give me great advice that I could use to make this film the best it could be.
Ong Bak 2: The Beginning was directed by Tony Jaa and stars Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyoo Wongkrachang, Santisuk Promsiri, and Petchtai Wongkamlao.
The movie comes out in limited theaters this Friday, October 23rd.
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