Tony Jaa began his career as a stuntman for other actors, much like one of his martial arts inspirations, Jackie Chan. Working under his master and mentor, Thai director Panna Rittikrai, Jaa took hits and tumbles in equal measure before getting his first starring role in 2005’s (American debut) Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior. Ong Bak found immediate success, both with critics and audiences, as a showcase for Jaa’s acrobatic prowess and impressive organic stuntwork (again, like Jackie Chan, Jaa performed all of his own stunts) during a time when wire-based action was a staple in martial arts films. Two years later, Jaa followed with his second film, The Protector, which was less well reviewed Stateside but continued to highlight Jaa’s talents.
With audiences looking for more of the same, Ong Bak 2, Jaa’s first directorial effort, began production in 2006, but encountered some setbacks that delayed the release of the film. Now, the much anticipated sequel (whose story, interestingly, does not tie in with either Ong Bak 1 or The Protector), finally opens this month in limited release, and it looks to be much grittier than his previous two films. We decided to ask Tony what his Five Favorite Films were, and the choices he offered reflect the various influences that have shaped his career.
Ong Bak 2 opens in limited release on October 23rd.
For more Five Favorite Films, check our archive.