Tony Jaa, the Thai martial arts master and actor who stunned audiences with his 2003 debut film Ong Bak, has been missing since June, placing the future of his nearly completed directorial debut, Ong Bak 2, in jeopardy.
The producers of the film, Sahamongkol Films, state that they have not had any contact with Jaa in almost three months and that the film, which he has already spent three years working on, is about 70% to 80% complete. Panna Rittikrai, Jaa’s longtime martial arts instructor and mentor who has also served as the action choreographer for the film, has been unable to locate him either.
However, conflicting reports have Jaa requesting time off to recover from the stress of the production, which has been plagued with difficulties. There are also conflicting news stories concerning the films finances. Some sources state that Jaa has been spending his own money to ensure the film’s completion, to the point where he is nearly broke. Other sources state that Sahamongkol Films has been shoveling nearly three times the film’s original budget into the production.
In the meantime, Sahamongkol Films has brought in Prachya Pinkaew, Jaa’s director on the original Ong Bak and for Tom-Yum-Goong (The Protector), to complete the film in time for its scheduled December 5 release. Ironically, Jaa and Pinkaew had a falling out in the early stages of pre-production of Ong Bak 2 over how much creative control Jaa would have. Pinkaew left the film to shoot the martial arts action flick Chocolate.
A promotion reel for the film screened at Cannes earlier this year. Although the Weinstein Company picked up North American distribution rights in March, 2006, they returned them in May 2007. Currently the film has no United States distribution.
Via Variety Asia and Kaiju Shakedown.