Tony Jaa Goes Missing. Ong Bak 2 Up in the Air.

Ong Bak 2 (2008) Movie PosterNow this is a strange story. Last month we showed you a promo reel for Tony Jaa’s directorial debut, “Ong Bak 2” (see it here if you haven’t yet), and the reaction to the footage shown was a Universal, “OMFG, that is awesome, and Ow, I think my bones hurt just watching it.” Well now it appears that after spending over $6 million on the film (a huge budget in Thai film industry terms), the actor-director has disappeared since June. Completely. His families have been unable to reach him, and neither has the production company that fronted the movie. The speculation is that stress on the project has gotten the better of Jaa, and sent him into the jungles (literally) to meditate.

has this:

His family said Jaa has suffered a lot of stress from the shoot and has gone to meditate in the jungle. Reports in the Thai press suggest a case of budget mismanagement that resulted in Jaa spending over 200 million baht ($6.25 million) without finishing the film.

“I guarantee that this is not a case of financial fraud, and I have no intention of pursuing any legal action against him,” Techaratanaprasert said. “We’re running behind schedule, and some of our international contracts have been cancelled because of that. I know he loves this film very much, so I just want him to finish the film because there’s only a little work left.”

Prachya Pinkaew, who directed the first “Ong-bak” and “Tom-yum-goong” (shown as “The Protector” in the U.S.), confirmed that he will step in to edit the footage and maybe direct the rest of the movie.

“Jaa has little experience directing,” said Pinkaew. “He’s spent nearly $7.8 million. The film is almost finished, so I’ll try to see what I can do with the footage that he’s shot.”

It was probably not a good idea for Jaa to began his directing career with something as huge as “Ong Bak 2”. If you’ve seen the promo reel for it, you know this thing is a massive undertaking — a historical martial arts movie that requires heavy workloads on Jaa as an actor, stuntman, AND director? Way too much stress for a first-timer.

In any case, the film was scheduled for a December 5 opening in Thailand, which still seems likely if the producers bring in Prachya Pinkaew to chop what’s already been shot into a film. Of course, this would mean Jaa has not finished shooting the movie, and the final cut we’ll get from Pinkaew’s version will be incomplete.

Yet another movie I was so looking forward to, and which now seems to be in a bunch of trouble…

Update: 7/29/08

Tony Jaa has re-surfaced — on a Thai talk show, of all places, to address allegations made against him by “Ong Bak 2’s” producers — namely that he flaked out and disappeared into the jungles somewhere, leaving “Ong Bak 2” unfinished. Variety has more:

Jaa, who broke down at one point in front of the cameras, claimed that he has received only Baht117 million from the studio and that he didn’t abandon the set but had gone off to “pursue his artistic quest.”

Last Friday, the head of Sahamongkol held a press conference announcing that the actor and director of the much-anticipated “Ong-bak 2” had gone AWOL and that Prachya Pinkaew, helmer of the original “Ong-bak,” would step in to edit the footage and perhaps direct the rest of the film, which is 80% completed.

“I’m shocked at what happened,” said Jaa. “I didn’t receive Baht250 million. There must be a misunderstanding over the number and I have proof of all my spending.

“There are so many problems. I went away to focus on the artistic angle of the film. I make this film not with the number and figures in mind, but for its artistic quality. I invest my effort in it with almost spiritual devotion.”

You know, I like Jaa and all, but “spiritual devotion”? “Pursue his artistic quest”? Huh. At the risk of the dude coming over here and kneeing me in the face, he kinda does sound like a flake…

Ong Bak 2