BEAUTIFUL BOXER - Q&A with Ekachai Uekrongtham
Movie Interview by Neils Hesse
Did you purposefully cut out any gay relationships that the main character may have had and if so why?
I was just being truthful to her character, she did not consider herself to be attractive to men when she was still a man. She did have crushes on men before the operation.
The opening fight scene was quite vicious in comparison to a lot of the fights in the ring, why did you tone it down?
In those scenes I was trying to reflect how she was drawn to kickboxing from an artistic point of view. I wanted to show that kickboxing is a beautiful art and since this was her point of view we showed it that way.
What was it like to convince a real life macho Thai Boxer to play this character?
The Thai boxer I chose was hesitant, but he is very confident of his masculinity so he became comfortable with the whole process. He complained about the waxing, the pain is very sharp and was in some ways worse than being hit in the ring. I wanted to teach him that when you look at something feminine it doesn't mean it's easy and the whole waxing experience and learning ballet taught him to appreciate that some feminine stuff is really physically demanding. When he was starting everything he thought it would just be simple fun but after all the training he now looks at women from a different point of view.
What drew you to this story?
I wanted to make a film about kickboxing, and I also thought that the whole current metro sexual trend, and interest in transvestites would be interesting to explore. I thought that Nong Toom's story offered me a unique opportunity. Before I met her I thought that she was a conceited person who was just after the spotlight but she impressed me as being very loving towards her family and as being a nice person.
Do you know any Thai boxing yourself?
I learnt it when I was young in school but I was never any good and as such I have never really followed it up.
Has the film turned out exactly the way you wanted it to be?
Well as the director when I saw the finished product I liked it but I always think about adding this here or doing this other scene differently, but on the whole I am happy with it. In fact what you will see over here is the 'director's cut' so it is in my opinion a better cut.
Which scene is your favourite scene?
The last scene is my favourite scene, when she is visited by a boxer. For me that is a cinematic expression of what she experienced and felt in her heart at that point in her life and coincidentally that is also Nong Toom's favourite scene.
Which directors inspire you?
Zhang Yimou is fantastic, his work is so visually stunning. Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a Japanese director who is also very good. He made a fantastic film called CURE (aka KYUA) and it is about a man who hypnotises people to get them to kill other people. There is a Hollywood remake in development but it is very hard to adapt.
Would you like to do a Hollywood movie?
I wouldn't mind that at all. I liked THE SIXTH SENSE. Hollywood allows the director to make a film in the right way with all the right support. I also loved THE OTHERS with Nicole Kidman. I would like to do an X-MEN movie but that has already been taken. I think that every director has a child in them. I also like stories that deal with death.
What did Nong Toom think about the film after she watched it?
Initially she couldn't bring herself to watch it but then she came to a private screening with her family and she cried. She said it's one of life's greatest gifts to her. We have since become very good friends, and I direct a cabaret show with her as the star at the moment. Next year I am planning an action film with her in the lead role, she wants to be like Michelle Yeoh.
What's next for you?
I am making a film called THE COFFIN about a young man who lies in a coffin one night and then he starts going through some horrific things. The film is about death and the fears that are related to death. Then I am going to do a film called SWORDS AND SPIRITS, it will involve an ancient way of Thai sword fighting and it will have some supernatural elements to it as well. It will star Asanee Suwan, the current star of BEAUTIFUL BOXER and he's in training now for this upcoming role.
Are you worried that your film may be ignored as simply being a gay movie?
No, not worried as I am grateful that it's seen by anybody but I am worried that it will be pigeon holed as being a film about sex changes. I hope that people give it a chance so that they can see that it's actually a beautiful story that is truthful to the main character.