Movies without frontiers in Asia
By Jules Kay
Thailand attracted plenty of Hollywood stars in 2010 with some of next year's top movies being filmed in the Kingdom. In November, Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts arrived to film the forthcoming tsunami disaster movie The Impossible, while this month, the cast of The Hangover staggered their way round Krabi and Bangkok to make the sequel to the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time.
But the relationship between Hollywood studios and Asia is a long one and extends far beyond simple location choices. Classic Japanese action movies like The Seven Samurai inspired similarly famous remakes, namely The Magnificent Seven, while Akira Kurosawa's 1950 Japanese crime mystery, Rashomon, was remade as The Outrage. More recently, the 2006 crime film The Departed, directed by Martin Scorcese was a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, while the smash hit South Korean film The Chaser, by first-time Korean filmmaker Na Hong-jin was also remade by Hollywood in 2008 and brought together William Monahan, Roy Lee and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Another crossover trend has been to rework Asian horror films in the USA such as The Ring, Pulse, Dark Water, and The Eye. The Ring, a Gore Verbinski-directed thriller was a remake of another Japanese box office hit, Ringu. The basic story described a video that killed anyone that watched it seven days after viewing. Naomi Watts took the lead role in the Hollywood version, playing a reporter who started investigating the death of four teenagers that died after watching the tape. Jessica Alba was cast in another remake of the Pang Brothers J-Horror movie The Eye, which depicts the tribulations of a blind violinist who begins experiencing terrifying visions after an operation to restore her eyesight. The Pang brothers also came to Thailand to make the stylish fusion movie Bangkok Dangerous.
Other films set in Thailand include Around the World in Eighty Days, The Big Boss, The Man with the Golden Gun and The Beach. The Kingdom was also used as a stand-in setting for Vietnam War-era films like The Deer Hunter, Good Morning Vietnam, Casualties of War and The Killing Fields.
In addition to providing work for Thai film crews and extras, movies have also helped Thailand promote itself as a tourist destination. The Ministry of Tourism recently announced that in 2010 a staggering 377 movies, TV shows, commercials and documentaries had been shot in Thailand and foreign movies generated some 1,418.40 million THB in revenue.
A combination of stunning locations, creative scripts and skilled technicians makes Thailand and its neighbours a natural choice for both remakes and movie sets. This means people heading to the Land of Smiles for a well earned break, could easily find themselves featured as an extra on the silver screen.