A forthcoming Hollywood movie partially shot in northern Thailand that depicts a coup in an unnamed Southeast Asian country has not been banned by authorities in Bangkok, according to reports.
The movie ‘No Escape’, which was formerly known as ‘The Coup’, was filmed in Chiang Mai and neighboring provincial capital Lampang and stars Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan.
The movie was filmed in 2013, before the current ruling military junta came to power in last year’s coup, and the name change was announced in February this year. It is not clear whether the name change was an attempt to appease the Thai authorities.
The movie is slated for an Aug. 26 premiere in North America and a Sept. 10 premiere in Thailand. However, entertainment site Radar reported yesterday that the flick has been banned in Thailand. The article cites an anonymous “movie insider” who describes how the Thai National Film and Video Censors Board banned the film because its studio and director refused to “not to have Thailand mentioned by name at all in the film or script.”
However, the Bangkok Post reported that such claims were mere rumors, and that No Escape will be released in Thailand as planned on Sept. 10. The article said that the Culture Ministry confirmed on Monday that the movie was approved by government censors as early as July 28.
The Post article also countered Radar’s assertion that filmmakers refused to cooperate with the Thai censors, noting: “Steps have obviously been taken to make sure the setting of the film is not identified as Thailand such as the upside down Cambodian (or Khmer) letters on the riot police shields.”
In fact, the Thai government hopes to attract more Tinseltown attention in the future. The Post says the Ministry of Tourism and the Sports Ministry are lobbying to give rebates of up to 20 percent international filmmakers who shoot in the Southeast Asian nation. The article says such movie productions are a huge opportunity for governments to employ local talent and boost their national image, noting: “Mexico returned US$10 million to makers of the latest James Bond movie, but required producers to cast Mexican stars and depict the country in a positive light.”
However, the financial rewards of shooting in Thailand have been coupled with major risks. The Post article notes how life began to imitate art for Wilson and the movies crew: “During the filming… a fire broke out on the film set in Lampang and actors Pierce Brosnan and Owen Wilson reportedly ‘barely escaped’ the flames.”
Even more ironically, Wilson was nearly arrested after finishing the shoot when he posed for a picture with a fan who handed him a whistle on a blue, white and red-striped strap to wear for the photo. Unbeknownst to the star, the colors and whistles were used by anti-government protesters in the unrest that led to last year’s coup. After the picture was posted online the actor was dismayed to learn that wearing the accessory could be interpreted as a pledge of support to the rebels, and could cause issues when he departed the country.
He spoke of the incident in a recent broadcasting of the Jimmy Kimmel show, on which he said: “The day that I was leaving, somebody asked for a picture and gave me something to put around my neck… I guess this thing that I put on identified me with the rebels – I’m not kidding. All of a sudden, they (authorities) were calling the prime minister’s office saying that I was going to be detained from leaving (sic) because these colors and that whistle meant that I was siding with the protesters.” Fortunately, the actor was able to leave the country without any issues.
You can see Wilson describe his close call in Thailand here: