'Ong-bak 2' director has been MIA since June

BANGKOK — What do you do when the star and director of a major film whose footage drew international interest in Cannes goes AWOL?

On Friday, Sahamongkol prexy Somsak Techaratanaprasert held a press conference to confirm that Tony Jaa has been missing since June.

“But I love him as a son,” said Techaratanaprasert as the studio insists the much-anticipated Thai film “Ong-bak 2″ will be finished in time for its scheduled Dec. 5 release in Thailand.

Jaa, who became a first-time helmer after scoring a global hit as the Siamese kick-boxing sensation in “Ong-bak” and “Tom-yum-goong,” has spent nearly three years shooting “Ong-bak 2.”

The pic’s show reel generated buzz at the Cannes Film Market. But Jaa’s producers at Sahamongkol Film Intl. couldn’t reach him by phone.

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.”

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