SEOUL – Panna Rittikrai, Thailand’s leading martial arts stuntman, choreographer and film director, died Sunday (July 20, 2014) age 53.
Rittikrai was mentor to Thailand’s contemporary martial arts stars Tony Jaa and Jeeja Janin, among others.
His credits include directing “Born to Fight” (in 1986 and again in 2004) and “Ong Bak” parts 2 and 3 and action choreography on and “Tom Yum Goong” (aka “The Protector”). He also appeared as an actor-fighter-stuntman in over 50 movies from 1982-2010.
Rittikrai died in hospital in Bangkok from complications brought on by acute liver and kidney failure. It was also recently discovered that he had a brain tumor as well.
Born as Krittiya Lardphanna and hailing originally from the northeastern Isaan region, Rittikrai started his film career by providing physical training to Thai actors in Bangkok. He later returned to his home province and formed the PPN Stunt Team / Muay Thai Stunt Team, with which he started making films.
His gritty style, which made little use of wire work and visual effects, appealed to hard core action fans and helped put Thailand on the map as a modern source of authentic martial arts and action pictures. He frequently worked with producer director Prachya Pinkaew and financier-distributor Sahamongkolfilm International.
His final screen credits are on “Tom Yum Goong 2,” “Chocolate 2” and “Vengeance of an Assassin.”