It’s been a while since we last talked to Tony Jaa but we caught up with him again this weekend for a few words on his upcoming movie, Skin Trade (directed by Dolph Lundgren), as well as a few other projects. It looks like Tony is ramping up his schedule and is really ready to go. Of course he has another movie out soon, that little feature called Furious 7, but questions regarding that are for another time since he is still under NDA. Check out our talk below.
ManlyMovie: So we have waited ten years for Tony Jaa to appear in a western/English speaking movie, now two come in one month!
Tony Jaa:I waited that long also. In 2013 I ended my relationship with the Thai Studio that I had previously worked with. During the period of my attachment to that studio I was unable to perform in any films not produced by them. This restricted the range and number of films that you have seen me perform in, and was quite restrictive. 2014 represented my first opportunity to pursue what had only been a dream, to be able to act in Hollywood and International film productions. It was really exciting.
I acted in 3 films in 2014, and will maintain that pace for a while. I am having too much fun not to.
MM: What was working with Dolph like? It seems this was a very big movie for him, where he’d planned it for years.
TJ:Dolph is a real professional. Dolph but his heart and soul into his performance in Skin Trade and it really shows on screen.
MM: What can you tell us about your role in Skin Trade?
TJ: I play a Thai cop who for his own personal reasons wants to stop human trafficking. My character is tracking a large human trafficking network run by foreign gangsters with a base somewhere in S.E. Asia. My world collides with Dolph Lundgren’s character when circumstances bring us together.
For me the role was really interesting. It was my first performance in English, and I spent a lot of time practicing and improving my English as well as my ability to act in English. The role was also different since this was not a martial arts movie. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some neat fight scenes where I use a lot of martial arts; but it does mean that my character had more depth and more emotion than many of the past characters I am associated with. My character is a real guy, he has feelings, he has problems, he is very tough yet he is very human. He is a really good guy with a good heart. I think I wouldn’t mind being him in real life.
MM: So you said you’re planning to maintain a pace of three or so movies per year. Which will be the third for 2015? There’s some confusion about the order of release dates.
TJ:Fast 7 comes out 3 April, Skin Trade comes out in the U.S. on 8 May in theatres,with release dates in other countries to be announced by the distributors in each territory, and SPL II will release in China on June 18 with other territories to be announced by the production company.
MM: A Man Will Rise is another upcoming movie of yours with Dolph. It’s supposedly a comedy, does Tony Jaa have a hidden comedic talent?
TJ:This movie you are referring to was being produced by the studio I was previously attached to. They did not complete the film while I was still attached to them. The film was being directed by Vitidnan, and I do not know what the plans are for completion or release. The concept was only mildly comedic. I do enjoy comedy and think that an action comedy would be fun. It would certainly give me a chance to show some acting range.
MM: One of the reasons you’ve become a rising star is that your action scenes have a brutal realism to them unlike some movies that over indulge in CGI. Does that come at a cost, are you injury prone?
TJ: I do not like the heavy use of CGI in action films, I was in one film where this was done in editing and post processing and it did not really look right. I prefer not to use wires for my scenes, and I prefer to do my own stunts. Injuries can happen, but we take real precautions to ensure that very good safety equipment is used, and that there is adequate rehearsal so that no one accidentally hurts someone else. I get a little sore or bruised once in a while. In a couple of my early films attention to safety was more lax and I still have a scar on my arm from a sword cut.
MM: Finally, I don’t know if you’ve checked the IMDb recently but your name has The Raid 3 listed under it. It sounds too incredible to be true, is it? What do you think of those movies?
TJ: I was impressed by the action choreography in Raid 1 and I think that Iko has real talent. I saw the IMDB list, but the fact is there have never been any discussions between me and the producers of that series.