Tony Jaa is on a roll -downhill and fast

Art September 05, 2013 00:00

By The Nation

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Studio chief Somsak 'Sia Jiang' Techaratanaprasert holds two press conferences in as many weeks about his top action star Thatchakorn 'Tony Jaa' Yeerum and you know things aren't going well at Sahamongkol Film International.

STUDIO CHIEF Somsak “Sia Jiang” Techaratanaprasert holds two press conferences in as many weeks about his top action star Thatchakorn “Tony Jaa” Yeerum and you know things aren’t going well at Sahamongkol Film International.

Last week it was an “urgent” clarification that he wasn’t upset after reading in the paper like everyone else that his boy was heading to Hollywood to appear in “Fast and Furious 7”. Their freshly renewed 10-year contract didn’t cover that possibility, Sia Jiang declared, but he sure wished Jaa had called him directly.

Another week passed and still no word from Jaa, so on Tuesday Sia Jiang faced the press again, this time flanked by filmmakers Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Ritthikrai. Reporters got only a few hours’ advance notice – and then another clarification. Actually, the studio boss said, the contract with Jaa does cover overseas movie projects. “If he wants to be in ‘Fast and Furious 7’, they have to contact Sahamongkol Films for approval first,” Sia Jiang growled. Now there were two furious things in the picture.

It turned out that the day after the previous press gab, Sia Jiang heard from Jaa – albeit not in person. Jaa sent him formal notice that he doesn’t belong to Sahamongkol anymore and reserves the right to work on any movie project he chooses. Jaa also demanded that Sahamongkol seek his permission to use him (or presumably his likeness, at least) to promote “Tom Yum Goong 2” when it comes out on October 23.

“He said his move to Hollywood had nothing to do with me,” Sia Jiang said. “But I called you guys here to make it clear why I’ve changed my stance.”

Obviously sting by this latest unexpected and rather unpleasant surprise from his star, Sia Jiang sent out notifications of his own to other studios that they can’t use Jaa without his okay.

Panna, a mentor for Jaa when it comes to martial arts, pointed out that Jaa had only just signed his revised Sahamongkol contract in mid-July. “He came with his wife and kid. He asked if it was okay if he accepted some advertising work.” Amid this tussle, Panna tried to call, but said Jaa didn’t answer the phone.

So, bottom line: Summon the lawyers.

Nothing was said at the press conference about Jaa’s other movie in the works, “A Man Will Rise”, which he co-stars in and co-directed with Swedish meatball Dolph Lungrund. Sahamongkol invested around Bt150 million, but Jaa seems to have walked away from the project, just as he did on “Ong-Bak 2” and “Ong-Bak 3”, leaving Panna and Prachya to finish those films.

No work has been done on “A Man Will Rise” for two months and Jaa is virtually in hiding. Assistant director Vithitnan Rojanaphanich is ready to get the movie done, but Jaa’s absence complicates things.

This is a hell of a way to advance your career, but perhaps before Hollywood is ready to embrace him, Jaa is going to have to clean up the mess at home.