Thai martial arts superstar Tony Jaa has entered a monastery, effectively leaving the film industry. This past Friday, the Ong-Bak star rode an elephant up to a Buddhist temple in Surin, Thailand where he took vows, shaved his head and became an ordained Buddhist monk.
Jaa has had a troubled couple of years since rocketing to overnight success with his first film Ong Bak. Following the success of his second film Tom Yung Goong (released in the States as The Protector), Jaa insisted that he direct the sequel to Ong Bak himself. Unfortunately, it was a demand that most credit for destroying Jaa’s relationship with director Prachya Pinkaew, the man responsible for his career. Reports from the film’s set where not promising and as the production quickly slipped behind schedule and over-budget, it was clear that Jaa was overwhelmed. He even disappeared for a while before resurfacing. Another round of contentious public disagreements with studio Sahamongkol ultimately lead to Jaa agreeing to split Ong Bak 2 into two movies giving the company a chance to recoup the cost over runs, the addition of a major new role for the studio’s other major star, Dan Chupong, and directorial duties for the remainder of the shoot being handed over to Jaa’s stunt co-ordinator Panna Rittikrai.
The end results were a bit of a mixed bag. Ong Bak 2 has some great martial arts sequences and manages to work despite a few flaws. Reportedly, Ong Bak 3 is more of a mess, having been pieced together as best as possible from what remaining footage their was. It also became the first of Jaa’s films to not hit the top of the Thai box office.
I don’t think we can count Jaa out of films forever though. Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal states that “Thai Buddhist men routinely enter the monkhood at various auspicious times in their lives for short durations” and that Jaa’s mother hopes that the 34-year-old star “finds a nice woman to marry afterward.” Hopefully, this is what Jaa needs to find some balance i his life. If when he emerges, that means no more movies, I will be disappointed, but understand.