Friday, 11 September 2009
"Thai Girl" Goes to Hollywood
It’s perhaps every novelist’s dream to see their story on the silver screen, so I’m more than pleased to tell you that my novel, “Thai Girl” has been optioned as a Hollywood movie.
It’s a small studio in Los Angeles called ‘Filmed Imagination’ run by two interesting characters called Daniel Dreifuss and Marius Haugan and that suits me just fine. The big studios often option novels in large numbers and, like a developer’s land bank, keep them indefinitely gathering dust on the shelf in case the story comes into fashion.
For this studio though, “Thai Girl” is a key project and they’re strongly committed to getting it filmed. Marius, a long time visitor to Thailand developed a passion for the book and its story and had little difficulty persuading Dan that it was just up their street. They see the book as having many key qualities that would make it a fabulous movie.
The “Thai Girl” story is set on the beautiful holiday islands of Koh Samet and Koh Chang, in Bangkok and the rice fields of Buriram province. It thus offers exotic locations of sea and islands and Bangkok city nightscapes, together with the softer contrasts of the real rural Thailand. Visually it should be stunning.
As a bitter sweet romance between Ben, a good looking English lad off travelling after university and Fon, a pretty beach masseuse, “Thai Girl” explores broad popular themes of universal appeal. When their two very different worlds collide, Ben and Fon are swept along together, grappling with the eternal confusions of a cross-cultural relationship. As Ben vigorously pursues his passion for Fon, the sparkling Thai girl of his dreams, she resists his advances, refusing to be distracted by a passing foreigner. Will Ben get his girl? Will Fon overcome her natural suspicion of this attractive young guy and fall for Ben?
The key characters are few and the story’s structure is not unduly complex, so it should adapt well as a feature film that’s every bit as compelling as readers often find the book.
A review of “Thai Girl” has described it as ‘one of the top selling English language novels ever published in Thailand’ so the story certainly seems to have a wide appeal. It also has many thought provoking themes that a movie maker could interpret and develop. Another reviewer has called it ‘the definitive novel about relations between Thais and foreigners’, so the movie should be more than just another sentimental love story.
One of the first things that impressed me about Dan and Marius before I signed up with them was that they are very committed to “Thai Girl” and its themes and so, I hope, will make a movie that’s true to the book. I put it to them that the ending isn’t very Hollywood but, they said, two star-crossed lovers called Romeo and Juliet likewise failed to overcome the forces that kept them apart and their story has made some great movies. The happy couple do not have to sail off into the sunset together for it to make it a successful movie.
I’m thus hopeful that an engaging film will emerge that is positive about Thailand, that showcases some of the finest visitor attractions here and is respectful of the Thai people generally. There’s a tendency for movies set in Thailand to focus on a seedy fantasy land of sex and drugs and crime. In strong contrast the “Thai Girl” characters are down to earth, ordinary and real. Ben is fresh and clean living and Fon is not a bar girl but is a serious Buddhist who works hard for her family.
While Ben is intrigued by the Bangkok bar scene, he thus does not waver in his passion for Fon but struggles to understand why young Thai women are so readily treated as a saleable commodity to attract single male tourists to Thailand. When he visits her village in Buriram with Fon, he begins to understand how farming is no longer a viable way of life and that young people, Fon included, have to find a new life for themselves far from home in a perilous world. His experiences with Fon illustrate for him all the stark issues that confront the more thoughtful western visitor to Thailand, an aspect to the story that can give the movie depth as well as just being entertaining.
Finally, what existing movies are there already about young travelers exploring the cultural mysteries of Thailand? Apart from “The Beach”, (which was about an anonymous ‘desert island’ community and made very little specific reference to Thailand), there really aren’t any at all. Given the enduring popularity of Thailand with young visitors, this is thus an extraordinary omission and a huge opportunity for a movie maker.
Current economic conditions aren’t that good for financing a movie but nonetheless the industry grinds slowly on. “Thai Girl” won’t be an expensive movie to make and, in difficult times it’s a great moment to produce a love story that’s poignant and beautiful and plucks at the world’s heart strings.
Writing “Thai Girl” has been a very rewarding experience for me… “Thai Girl”, the movie would be the icing on the cake.
I can’t wait to see it on the big screen!
Andrew Hicks The “Thai Girl” blog. September 2009