SYNOPSIS Prachya Pinkaew, director of Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, returns with CHOCOLATE, an explosive new martial arts masterpiece starring his new protégé, “Jija” Yanin Vismistananda, who spent five years training for the role. Jija plays Zen, a young autistic girl who grows up next to a Muay Thai boxing studio and is raised on a steady diet of chocolate and marathon viewings of Tony Jaa and Bruce Lee films. Zen’s father, a Japanese gangster, has been driven out of the country by a rival Thai gang, so her mother has been forced to raise her alone.
It becomes clear over time that Zen has miraculously absorbed formidable Muay Thai techniques from watching the boxers next door and repeated viewings of martial arts classics. When Zen’s mother is diagnosed with cancer and the cost of treatments prove overwhelming for the family, Zen sets out with her cousin on a violent mission to collect debts from the corrupt gangsters that owe her mother money.
Featuring death-defying stunts and a charming newcomer who is sure to blow the minds of martial arts fans everywhere, CHOCOLATE represents Prachya’s proper follow-up to the smash success of Ong Bak.
ABOUT THE FILM
It seems that there is no space in the world’s movie industry for female action stars to show their fighting skills. In the past few decades, only Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi have been the icons for female action stars. In Thailand, there was only Sureewan Suriyong who was an action superstar when she was trained by Panna Rittikrai, the best director for action movies in Thailand. It is not a surprise that most Thai people adore action heroes like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li as well as Tony Jaa. However, there has always been a process of discovering new diamonds in the rough.
Especially when we talk about potential and readiness, there is no better production company that has the budget, personnel and expertise in producing action movies for women than Sahamongkolfilm International. The company has the great vision of Somsak Techaratanaprasert as a film promoter who has been in the Thai movie industry for more than 40 years with key members like Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai. Together these are the 3 musketeers behind the success of Thai action movies like Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong.
“After working with Tony Jaa in Ong Bak, Mr. Somsak, Panna, and I have always talked about how the success of that movie created the opportunity for Thai action movies on the world stage. With the readiness of Sahamongkolfilm, our team, Mr. Somsak, Panna, and I, we were confident that we would be able to produce female action films. We only needed to find the diamond in the rough. A girl is with all the qualifications of charm, figure, appearance and most importantly real martial arts abilities. I must accept that we set a very high qualifications and standard which was not going to be easy to find someone who has them all.”
Nonetheless, Prachya Pinkaew remained confident. He already had brought the beautiful art of Thai boxing and Thai action movies back to life and made them well-known worldwide. Finally, it was as if heaven provided an unexpected new action heroine. Someone with real fighting talent and courage to show that real dramatic action is extremely dangerous in the world of action films. She is the one who had the bravery to perform “Real Act, Real Pain” like Tony Jaa from the concept of action movies of Prachya-Panna. Panna was looking for a female actress for the movie Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight), his first action movie in 10 years, when Jija Yanin appeared and caught his attention.
“At first, I saw a tiny, fresh looking girl at the age of 18. I felt she was too small and too young for the role in Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight). But I asked her to show her fighting and action skills. While we talked, I saw her unique characteristics. When she talks, she is strong and determined. Suddenly, I thought of 2 people. First person is myself when I decided to practice stunts without a trainer. I practiced Thai boxing, imitating Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, by looking at myself in the mirror. The more I felt tired, the stronger I felt. The second person was Tony Jaa at the time I first met him. He forced his dad to bring him to see me. He told me that if I did not accept him into my stunt team, he would commit suicide.”
One day during my preparation for Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight), I told Jija to come in and asked her to bring her parents to see me. She did not know that I had her action scenes prepared. She had never played action scenes. So, we prepared the camera. Once she arrived, I told her to warm up and I asked her to show her fighting skills one at a time. Then I showed the film to Prachya and Mr. Somsak. They both said, “This is it” (He snapped his fingers). We all agreed that she was like a breath of fresh air. Normally, when we have action actresses, they are tall and well built. They have to look scary in the movie frame. It was exciting to see a girl, so young and fresh, walking around Siam Paragon in a cute dress. But it was unbelievable that she could play action scenes like Tony Jaa. Jija has a surprising factor inside of her. It was the beginning of our Jija Project and culminating in “Chocolate-Autistic-Genius-Martial Artist”.
It was not a smooth road to success for Jija. For 2 years, she was heavily trained for her body to increase her body strength, tolerance, flexibility and martial art skills such as bare hand fighting Thai boxing, basic gymnastics, weapons, action scenes with stunts, standing positions, timing of weapons, facial expressions for fighting scenes, how to save oneself, etc. With strategies thought and compiled by Panna in his whole life as well as when he trained Tony Jaa, Jija was the first to learn them. The 3rd and 4th years were for the production of CHOCOLATE. You would be so wrong to think that this female action film CHOCOLATE is not as exciting, intense and dangerous as any male action film. Every action scene in this movie will not only open new dimensions, but it will surprise the audiences, even though this is Jija’s first action movie.
Autistic, Genius and Martial Artist create CHOCOLATE – An action movie that sells ideas and pays respect to legendary action heroes.
It is widely accepted that Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong destroyed the belief that Asian films are second best or that Hollywood and European films are the best because of their uniqueness unlike stereotypical action movies. These two movies contain fabulous scenes as well as being internationally acclaimed in a way that even high budget Hollywood could not do. Therefore, it was not a surprise that Thai action movies from the brain and ability of Thai people and the great teamwork of Prachya-Panna-Somsak and Sahamongkolfilm are so famous on the world stage. As a result, it left Prachya with the huge task to make CHOCOLATE, the 3rd Thai action movie on international level, different from previous works and worth waiting for. For fans it is the chance to see the first female action movie under the concept “Autistic Genius and Martial Artist”.
“One thing is necessary for action movies these days apart from the beauty of martial arts is uniqueness. Our target was to produce a female action movie that had “Real Act, Real Pain” in Tony Jaa’s style. Also, we had to think of how to make something different, to make something unseen before. That was the idea of an actress who is a genius and has the ability to memorize, mixing it with fighting skills of a female actress. What will happen if the leading actress is an ordinary girl who seems harmless but in action scenes, she has to show her fighting skills, she can act like Bruce Lee and with all the astute of Jackie Chan. She could also Thai box like Tony Jaa and can perform other different martial art styles. After thinking of the idea with Panna and Somsak for a long time, we met Jija and found an opening. We arranged a training program for Jija, who has to do all the acting scenes, and we then began the CHOCOLATE project. We spent all our time, it was done in a year, and we nurtured, changed, thought, fixed and executed. Since the first day we met Jija, it has been 4 years that we have worked hard for everyone to see what we feel and that is “proud”.
With the concept of CHOCOLATE, it is a chance for Prachya Pinkaew and
Panna Rittikrai to pay respect to legendary heroes of world action movies through
Jija Yanin in this film.
Not only action scenes, Jija has to show her acting skills as an autistic girl. So she has to study about autistic kids from books, case studies of special kids from hospitals and including spending time with these kids in schools to learn their characteristics, gesture and expressions of each individual kid. For acting skills, “Oh” Tipwalai Boonprakong, acting coach of the movie Rab Nong Sayongkwan and Academy Fantasia took special care of Jija.
In CHOCOLATE, apart from the uniqueness of Jija Yanin guaranteed by the director and the crew of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, another highlight is the prominent actors who light up the film from the start until the end. There is Hiroshi Abe, a leading Japanese star who plays a Japanese Yakuza named “Masashi”. As soon as he heard of the interest from the director of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, Abe accepted the invitation from Prachya immediately and he does not disappoint the audiences. Prachya said that, “Every scene he played, we felt the power of his acting and it was like there was an aura around him.” Pongpat Wachirabangjong, a superstar and director of the Thai movie industry, agreed to play Number-8 who is a ferocious and cold-blooded Thai Mafia leader in CHOCOLATE. Prachya praised Pongpat’s spirit and great acting skills, “Even without speaking, his eyes can send fear and raise the hair on your arms. Kids cry nonstop when they play with him in the scenes. “Som” Amara, a sexy singer in her first movie with the character of “Sin” who has to betray a gang leader like Pongpat. Sin has a special kid “Zen” (Jija) with Masashi (Abe). Amara has to play a mean, fashionable, and sexy girl and a mom who protects her daughter without caring for her own life. She did brilliantly and even Abe admitted her great acting skills, “She has a wonderful acting talent, it is hard to believe that this is her first movie. She will be a successful movie actress.”
In addition, there are other Thai actors such as Day Freeman, who plays the right hand guy of Number-8. He shows his terrific acting skills and has to play many painful acting scenes with Jija. Hiro Sanai, a Japanese model who played many TV series and plays including “7 Street Fighter”, plays a gang member of Masashi who takes care of Masashi’s lover and daughter. One new actor is Top who plays “Mangmoom”, Zen’s closest friend.
As for the Zen’s enemies in CHOCOLATE, she has to fight 3 Thai boxing champions, namely Zumia from Holland, Zu Jong from Korea and “Oh” Sirimongkol of Thailand. All three of them have to fight and show their Thai boxing skills with Jija in extraordinary fighting scenes designed by Panna that no one has ever seen before.
Be ready to see Jija Yanin, a unique talent nurtured for 4 years in the concept of “Genius Martial Artist”. She is a new action heroine, in CHOCOLATE, the 3rd action film on the international stage by Prachya Pinkaew.
A phenomenon: CHOCOLATE on the successful path of Sahamongkolfilm and
Thai action movies in the world market
In the history of the Thai movie industry, it said that there have never been actors, directors or producers and production companies that succeed in the world movie industry as continuously as Tony Jaa, Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai and Somsak Tacharatanaprasert. These talents are behind the success of Thai action movies liked Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, which made the box office in America at 17th and 4th places respectively. These two movies broke many records in Thailand and also countries around the world. It was a first for Thai movies. Moreover, the action movie Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight) directed by Panna Rittikrai introduced “Diew” Chupong, and Kon Bin Fai directed by Chalerm Wongpim, made the action movies of Sahamongkolfilm International, the biggest movie production company in Thailand, widely accepted from distributors and buyers around the world. Especially a mega-action project, the 3rd action film from Prachya, with 4 years preparation and a new action female star under a unique, first time, concept of “Autistic Genius” and “Martial Art skills.”
CONVERSATION WITH DIRECTOR PRACHYA PINKAEW AND STAR “JIJA” YANIN VISMISTANANDA
Prachya: We had been talking. We thought that after a few movies with Tony Jaa, it would be great if we had an actress in the leading role for action films. We needed a girl who not only could fight, but could act too. Also, she should possess attractive female qualities. Until one day, it was like a godsend. She came to us herself. We were casting for Panna Rittikrai’s Born to Fight, and there she came: Jija Yanin came in for a role. Panna saw her talent, personality, appearance, and everything else that fit our requirements perfectly. He said, “Don’t settle for just this role, you’re the one. The one we’ve been searching for.”
Jija: If you ask me, it’s not only my debut role, but it’s also an action movie. Who said being an action star is easy? I had to train, just as much as the boxers and the stuntmen did. I did boxing training in the morning, and gymnastics in the afternoon. I needed to do the moves Panna asked me to, because there were tests I needed to pass so I could go on to the next level.
Prachya: We spent two full years training Jija. The shooting began two years ago. We trained her until we felt we were ready to shoot. And it took another two years to shoot. During those years, the training continued. We never stopped training. We dedicated four years to one woman to make one film. Jija really had a tall order to fill. Not only did she have to master all those martial arts skills, but also she had to portray an autistic girl.
Jija: The fighting is the heart of this film, but playing an autistic person is tough too.
Prachya: There are several fight scenes. Each one has its own characteristics. Jija really put maximum effort in to make each scene work. Many times after I told her that the scene she just did was good enough, she would say she could do it better. There were a few times where she apparently seemed spent, but she would never quit. She’s just a little girl with a big heart. She was devoted to this film. When you see this film, you will definitely get this feeling too. CHOCOLATE is a rare breed of Thai action film. This is the first time we see a truly heroic female fighter in the leading role. Her talent is amazing.
Jija: This film is the product of much dedication from everybody involved, from the first to the last scene. It’s a new style of action movie, with a little girl as the star. I hope it will become one of your favorite films. Thank you very much.
CAST “JIJA” YANIN VISMITANANDA – Zen
Yanin Vismitananda or “Jija” was born on 31 March 1984. She was a weak child who agreed to learn taekwando when she was only 11 (1995) to strengthen her body. Her mother served as her inspiration. Taekwando became her passion and she got a level 1 black belt in 1997 and received a black belt one year later at 13. She then earned level 2 and level 3 black belts in 1998 and 2002, respectively. When she was 14, she became a taekwando instructor. While in high school, she won a gold medal from the Bangkok Youth Taekwando Competition in 1996. She also participated in taekwando through Thailand’s Department of Physical Education in 1997. When she was in her final year in high school, she went to a casting for an action movie Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight) directed by Panna Rittikrai. The casting focused on actions like kicking and several jumping styles. She passed the casting for the movie Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight). Afterwards, she had a chance to lead a workshop on demo fighting actions for Prachya Pinkaew and Somsak Tacharattanaprasert of Sahamongkolfilm. Finally, Sahamongkolfilm decided to make the action movie CHOCOLATE for Jija Yanin to play a key role and assigned Panna Rittikrai to train her in fighting skills for 4 years. The production of the movie took an additional 2 years.
HIROSHI ABE – Masashi
Hiroshi Abe, 43, is a Japanese model and superstar. He is famous among Thai people from several Japanese TV series, broadcasted by Itv, such as “Nai Za Ta Dek Naw” (2006), “Tang Ngan Gun Ter Na” (2002), “Pom…Hero Na Krub” (Jul-Aug 2003), etc. He was born on 22 June 1964 in Kanagawa, Yokohama. He graduated from Chuo University in 1988. His showbiz career began in March 1985 when he won a model “Shueisha 3rd Nonno Boyfriend Champion” of the magazine NONNO, which is the most successful teenage magazine in Japan. With his charming appearance, he appeared on the cover of NONNO many times as well as on the cover of the first edition of Men’s NONNO. In addition to his build (189 cm and 75 kg), which sets him apart from other Japanese stars, his humor and good looks make him very popular. He took a key part in “Cool Guy”, a popular mid-day Japanese TV variety show by the leading TV station Fuji Television. During his senior year (1988), Hiroshi Abe starred in his first film Haikarasan Ga Touru (A Trendy Girl Passes By) wherehe showed great acting potential and gift for funny guy roles. He then became one of the leading Japanese stars and famous among Japanese.
After that, he has worked in TV, movies, advertisements, plays, etc. In 2006, he won the Best Actor award from Kekkon Dekinai Otoko in the 50th Television Drama Academy Awards. For CHOCOLATE, Abe has his first chance to show his acting skills to fans both in Thailand and around the world.
PONGPAT WACHIRABANGJONG – Number 8
Pongpat Wachirabangjong, a superstar actor, singer and director, has been seen in many TV series and movies. Recently, he directed Me, Myself, which was very successful and won a movie award from India. His acting skills are widely known to be one of the best in Thailand for both leading and supporting roles. Some of his previous movies are Dee Tak, Tong Pron, Pan Ma Baa, Keu II, Anda Kab Farsai, 7 Street Fighter, Keun Rai Ngaw (2003), Hom Rong (2005), Opapatika– Kerd Amata (2007) and finally CHOCOLATE where he has a rare occasion to play a bad guy role.
“SOM” AMARA SIRIPONG – Sin
“Som” Amara Siripong is a singer, artist, model, and young talent. She is a singer of the well known “Playgirl” in Kankor club II album. Her own album was “Za Oob Rom” before she entered acting with the role of Sin who is a tough girl with an autistic daughter named “Zen” – a genius in martial arts.
CREW PRACHYA PINKAEW – Director
Born 2nd September 1962, Prachya graduated from Technology Nakornratsima College in 1985, with a major in Architecture.
Prachya Pinkaew began his career in 1990, working at Pack Shot Entertainment as first an art director and later creative director. In 1992, he became director for music videos and since he has won several Best Music Video Awards at the Golden Television Awards in Thailand.
In 1992, Prachya had the opportunity to direct his first feature film The Magic Shoes, followed in 1994 by his second film Romantic Blues.
Prachya began work on Ong Bak in 1999, working as both director and producer. The film, which was completed in 2003, was selected as the closing film for the Bangkok International Film Festival. It received its official international premiere as part of the Midnight Madness program at the Toronto Film Festival.
Ong Bak was the highest-grossing Thai film of 2003 and Prachya is considered a new leader in commercial Thai cinema. He followed Ong Bak with his fourth film, Tom Yum Goong which was released in 2005.
In 2008, Prachya Pinkaew comes back with a phenomenal film “Chocolate”, a mega project of a female action film and introduces Jija Yanin, a 23 years old action girl star following 4 years of supervision and training by Panna Rittikrai. The film has action scenes designed in a different way for women mixing with an excellent script to make it one challenging film that took 2 full years to complete.
Prachya has recently been promoted to the directorship of the Thai Film Association.
Panna is the leading action film director and actor of Thailand who is behind the success of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong. He has spent his entire life with action movies and dangerous stunts as an actor and director. He is an expert who trained Tony Jaa and Choopong Changprung for Thai action movies fans and the world. He is the founder of the “Muay Thai Stunt Team” which is the leading stunt team and played parts in several action movies. After seeing hundreds of women during the casting for an actress to play a key role in Kerd Ma Lui (Born To Fight), he met a girl with the talent of a black belt in Taekwando. She is a Taekwando instructor with a deadly skill. Her name is Jija Yanin. He decided to talk about Jija with Prachya and Somsak for her potential as a new female action star in the project of CHOCOLATE. He trained her in fighting skills such as Thai boxing, gymnastics, etc for 2 years. Finally, he is ready to begin shooting along with the training for yet another 2 years. CHOCOLATE is ready to show the greatness of Thai action movies to world as the 3rd action movie of Prachya Pinkaew and following in the steps of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong.