It’s been a strange journey for Thai action star Tony Jaa over the past 7 or 8 years. After starting his career as a stunt double, he exploded onto the scene with his first starring role in Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, a movie that caught everyone’s attention with its visceral fight scenes and dangerous stunts. From here he seemed destined to become the next big martial arts star, and followed up Ong-Bak with Tom yum goong aka The Protector. When he decided to take things to to the next level by directing the sequel to Ong Bak himself, however, that’s when it all started to fall apart.
During the shooting of Ong Bak 2, the pressure became too much for Jaa and he disappeared from the set for two months before eventually being located by his mentor Panna Rittikrai and talked into returning. He finished up work on that film and hastily shot a sequel, but now, he has apparently had enough. According to various sources, he has officially withdrawn from the world by riding an elephant to a Buddhist temple in Surin, Thailand, and taken vows to become a monk.
It’s unclear how long he plans to remain at the temple for, but the general belief seems to be that it is not a permanent decision. Either way, I guess this explains the cliffhanger ending to Ong Bak 2; apparently Jaa agreed to split up the movie into two films in order to recoup the losses from his two month retreat (possibly under threat of violence from the production company). Ong Bak 3 has not yet been released in North America, but apparently it wasn’t that well received in Thailand. Personally I think Jaa’s own story is a lot more interesting than the Ong Bak series, but I guess I’m curious to see how wacky the third film can get. Are you a Tony Jaa fan? Do you think he’ll return to acting eventually or is his movie career over?