September 12, 2006


Panna Rittikrai is Thailand's most famous action choreographer thanks to having one of his students turn out to be a little guy named Tony Jaa. But his career before ONG BAK and TOM YUM GOONG (aka THE PROTECTOR) isn't very well known. As part of the publicity push for THE PROTECTOR he agreed to do a very brief email interview, and my thanks to the publicity folks at the Weinstein Company for making this happen. And if you want to see his best work yet, check out BORN TO FIGHT, either in one of the many versions that are out there or when it makes its bow on a special edition DVD from the Dragon Dynasty label.

How did you start out in the movie business in Thailand?
My first step in the movie business was to apply for the stunt position at Colisium Film. 
At that time, Mr. Kom Akkadej wanted to shoot a film called PETCH TUD YOK and he hired me as a stunt man and assigned me to teach Kung-Fu to Sureewan Suriyong who was considered the queen of action movies. Then, I became a stunt choreographer for the film called PHAYAKYEEGEY. Last but not least, I became the director of my own movie called BORN TO FIGHT in which I also played in a leading role.
(note: he's referring to the first BORN TO FIGHT. See below.)

What was the first movie you made where you felt the audience really saw what you were trying to do with action choreography?
The answer is the original BORN TO FIGHT which I both directed and acted in. In this movie, I intended to present the genuine action scenes which looked very real and risky.

What were some of the influences on your action style?
My action style was influenced by Bruce Lee. My early works were also influenced by Akira Kurosawa. However, at the present time, Steven Spielberg is my idol.

Can you talk about the movie you made with Tony Jaa before ONG BAK?
It was a low-budget movie in which I wanted to mainly present Tony Jaa. However, I could not wrap up the project because of the shortage of financial support. I also thought that movie lacked uniqueness. When I made ONG BAK, I realized that the uniqueness that I had looked for is Muay Thai.

You've made BORN TO FIGHT twice now. How are the two versions different?
They are very different. The first version had a very low budget but still the concept of the two are similar. In both, we planned to show the action scenes, the stunts and to make them exciting and realistic.

How would you describe your particular brand of action choreography? 
For my style of choreography, I try to utilize natural abilities. I prefer realities to techniques. I want to show that we have real fighting talents which are different to other foreign stars with big budget productions. Although our productions can be compared to them on budget, we do have talented actors who can show their natural abilities. 

What projects are you working on now?
There is the new title, CHOCOLATE. We will also have ONG BAK 2, and POWER KIDS.

Proust it's not, but I'm hoping that this is the first of many interviews that Panna Rittikrai starts giving to the Western press. He really did create the modern Thai action industry out of nothing and it'd be interesting to learn more about his early days. If anyone has info on some of the earlier films he mentions then please sing out.

Update: Here's the trailer for SPIRITED KILLER, an early Panna Rittikrai/Tony Jaa film.

September 12, 2006 at 01:41 AM in Interviews | Permalink


Thank you for the interview. It was a short but interesting read.

Posted by: eliza bennet | Sep 12, 2006 1:59:30 AM

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