Tatchakorn Yeerum (Thai: ทัชชกร ยีรัมย์; rtgs: Thatchakon Yiram), formerly Phanom Yeerum (Thai: พนม ยีรัมย์; ; born February 5, 1976), better known internationally as Tony Jaa and in Thailand as Jaa Phanom (Thai: จา พนม; rtgs: Cha Phanom), is a Thai martial artist, actor, action choreographer, stuntman, director, and Buddhist monk. His films include Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003), Tom-Yum-Goong (also called Warrior King or The Protector) (2005), Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (2008), Furious 7 (2015), and SPL II (also called Kill Zone 2) (2015).
Tony Jaa was born and raised in a rural area in Surin to Rin (née Saipetch) and Thongdee Yeerum. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Maha Sarakham Institute of Physical Education. His hometown is 400 km from Bangkok. As he grew up he watched films by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li at temple fairs, which was his inspiration to learn martial arts. He was so inspired by them that while he was doing chores or playing with friends, he would imitate the martial arts moves that he had seen, practicing in his father's rice paddy.
"What they did was so beautiful, so heroic that I wanted to do it too," Jaa told Time in a 2004 interview. "I practiced until I could do the move exactly as I had seen the masters do it."
He began training in Muay Thai at the local temple from age 10 and at age 15 he requested to become a protégé of stuntman and action-film director Panna Rittikrai. Panna had instructed Jaa to attend Maha Sarakham College of Physical Education in Maha Sarakham Province. Tony Jaa has a Muay Thai record of 5 wins and 0 losses.
Although born in Thailand, Jaa is actually of Kuy descent and he can speak Thai, Northern Khmer (the language of approximately 50% of the people in Surin) and Kuy.
Tony initially worked as a stuntman for 14 years, Muay Thai Stunt, appearing in many of Panna's films. He doubled for Sammo Hung when the martial-arts actor made a commercial for an energy drink that required him to grasp an elephant's tusks and somersault onto the elephant's back. He was also a stunt double in the Thai television series Insee Daeng (Red Eagle).
Together, Panna and Jaa developed an interest in muay boran, the predecessor of muay Thai and worked and trained for four years at the art with the intention of developing a film about it. Eventually they were able to put together a short film showing what Jaa could do with the help of instructor Grandmaster Mark Harris. One of the people they showed it to was producer-director Prachya Pinkaew, who was duly impressed.
This led to Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior in 2003, Jaa's break-out role as a leading man. Jaa did all the stunts without mechanical assistance or computer-generated effects and it showcased his style of extreme acrobatics and speedy, dance-like moves. Injuries suffered in the filming included a ligament injury and a sprained ankle. One scene in the film involved fighting with another actor while his own trousers were on fire. "I actually got burned," he said in a 2005 interview. "I really had to concentrate because once my pants were on fire the flames spread upwards very fast and burnt my eyebrows, my eyelashes and my nose. Then we had to do a couple more takes to get it right.".
His second major movie was Tom-Yum-Goong (The Protector in the US), named after a type of Thai soup and including a style of muay thai that imitates elephants.
In August 2006, he was in New York to promote the US release of The Protector, including an appearance at the Museum of the Moving Image.
Sahamongkol Film International advertised that Tony Jaa's third film would be called Sword or Daab Atamas, about the art of Thai two-sword fighting (daab song mue), with a script by Prapas Chonsalanont. But due to a falling out between Prachya and Jaa, which neither have publicly commented on, Sword has been cancelled.
On March 2006 it was reported that there would be a sequel to Ong-Bak, Ong-Bak 2. With Jaa both directing and starring, it started pre-production in fall 2006 and was released in December 2008.
While Jaa and Amogelang were working on Ong-Bak 2, director Prachya Pinkaew and action ya choreographer Panna Rittikrai were working on Chocolate, starring a female martial artist, Nicharee Vismistananda, and released February 6, 2008. Jaa had been cast in a small role in a third installment of the King Naresuan film series directed by Chatrichalerm Yukol, although the film was ultimately cancelled. Ong Bak 3 was released in 2010 and provides a conclusion to this Thai trilogy.
His films captured the attention of his hero, Jackie Chan, who asked director Brett Ratner to cast Jaa in Rush Hour 3. "I gave the director videos of Tony Jaa because I think Tony Jaa is the most well-rounded of all action stars," Chan told the Associated Press. "The director liked him a lot," Chan said. However, Jaa said he'd be unable to participate because of scheduling conflicts with the shooting of Ong Bak 2.
Tony Jaa also released Ong Bak 3, as a sequel to the prequel Ong Bak 2.
On May 28, 2010, Jaa became a Buddhist monk at a Buddhist temple in Surin, Thailand.
Return to acting
After leaving the monastery, it came as a surprise to all that Jaa accepted a deal with Sahamongkol film company. He filmed Tom Yum Goong 2 for them, with Chocolate star Jija Yanin in a major role too, the first time Jaa has shared the big screen with another international martial arts star. Director Prachya Pinkaew and choreographer Panna Rittikrai also returned for this film.
In 2013, he teamed up with Dolph Lundgren in the Thai western-comedy A Man Will Rise (which remains unfinished) and in 2014 in Lundgren's pet project Skin Trade, directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham. Then Jaa co-starred in the blockbuster action film Furious 7, directed by James Wan. Jaa also teamed up with fellow actor Wu Jing in Hong Kong- Chinese action film SPL II.
Jaa was briefly attached to the remake of Kickboxer: Vengeance. However, in November 2014, it was announced that he had exited the project. Jaa's next project is starring with Vin Diesel in XXX: Return of Xander Cage.
Tony Jaa officially registered his marriage to longtime girlfriend Piyarat Chotiwattananont on 29 December 2011. The wedding ceremony was held on 3 May 2012. The couple has a daughter.
|1994||Spirited Killer||Supporting role|
|Mission Hunter 2 (Battle Warrior)|
|1997||Mortal Kombat: Annihilation||Stunt double: Robin Shou|
|2001||Nuk leng klong yao||Supporting role|
|2003||Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior||Ting|
|2007||The Bodyguard 2||Himself||Cameo|
|2008||Ong Bak 2: The Beginning||Tien||action choreographer, director and stunt coordinator|
|2010||Ong Bak 3|
|2013||Tom Yum Goong 2||Kham|
|A Man Will Rise||Unknown||Uncompleted|
|2014||Skin Trade||Tony Vitayakul||Hollywood debut film|
|SPL II: A Time For Consequences||Chai||Hong Kong debut film|
|2016||Never Back Down: No Surrender||Himself||Cameo|
|2017||XXX: Return of Xander Cage||Talon|
|SPL III : War Needs Lord|
|1998||Red Eagle||อินทรีแดง 2541, Stunt double: Red Eagle, uncredited|
|2004||Tragédie (duo)||"Je Reste Ghetto"||Muay Thai|
|2005||Tom Yum Goong: The game||Kham||Voice|
- 2015: Sze U Tonight (With Simon Yam & Wu Jing (actor), Television Board (TVB), Hong Kong)
Awards and nominations
|2003||Star Entertainment Awards||Actor in Leading Role of the Year||Ong-Bak||Won|
|2004||Thailand National Film Association Awards||Best Actor||Nominated|
|2006||Online Film Critics Society Awards||Best Breakthrough Performance||Ong-Bak||Nominated|
|2008||Top Awards||Motion Picture of the Year||Ong Bak 2||Won|
|2009||Nine Entertain Awards||Won|
|Thailand National Film Association Awards||Best Actor||Nominated|
|2010||Top Awards||Actor in Leading Role of the Year||Ong Bak 3||Nominated|
|2011||Deauville Asian Film Festival||Best Actor||Nominated|