Tony Jaa surfaces on talk show

Actor, director counters recent allegations

BANGKOK — Helmer-thesp Tony Jaa reappeared Monday night on a TV talkshow to counter Sahamongkol Film Intl.’s allegations that he was AWOL from pic “Ong-bak 2” and that it was overbudget.

Jaa, who broke down at one point in front of the cameras, claimed that he has received only 117 million baht ($3.5 million) from the studio and that he didn’t abandon the set but had gone off to “pursue his artistic quest.”

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. He said 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 250 million baht ($7.5 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.”

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The star also apologized Sahamongkol if his quest for artistic excellence has created trouble for the production, but insisted that he never forgot how far he’d gotten with the help and support of the studio.

He also expressed his intention to finish the film, though discussions with all parties involved will be crucial.

The studio says “Ong-bak 2” will open in Thailand on Dec 5.

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