Muay Thai is an art. I have always been mesmerized by it. As boxers, we have a dance before every fight to worship the holy spirit of muay Thai, and our ancestors who practiced it.
I present the art of Muay Thai to the world in the form of motion pictures. The iconic movements in muay Thai are universal. I spice them up with interesting plots and entertaining villains, ultimately so that audiences can experience the beauty of our traditional martial art.
The three things that represent Thai people are our unique culture, religion and king. These are our legacy. I can feel it in every muay Thai gesture. When our country was at war, muay Thai was our weapon. We fought for our people, for our land to be independent and for the king. It’s shown on the walls of temples and historical sites all around the country.
My first vivid memory from childhood is going to an outdoor screening of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee films. For a kid in the countryside, it was completely mind-blowing. I dreamed of being just like them. I began with analyzing their movements. But I realized my muay Thai moves were something unique; I was glad to inherit these skills.
I learn from my pain. Most people thought it absurd when I told them I wanted to become a movie star. But I was raised to think positively, so I kept pushing myself in training, ignoring the negative comments.
Every day I go to work I imagine the world as a big school where I can experiment with new stuff and learn from the people I work with. I like to take risks. I’ve jumped through flames, ridden on an elephant’s back and fought 80 stuntmen in one longtake action scene. It’s physically painful but also rewarding.
Hollywood is a factory. I have seen how the dreams of movie producers, writers and actors are manufactured, delicately and systematically. It’s totally different from what we’re doing here in Thailand. CGI is everything there and most of the time they don’t want you to experiment with something new that might lead you to hurt yourself.
Vin Diesel warmly welcomed me with a big hug. He said he’d been waiting to meet me ever since he saw me in Ong-Bak [2013]. It’s all about building your own iconic character. Everybody starts off playing a small role and later forges their trademark, like his characters in the Fast and Furious and Riddick franchises.
My trademark is real live action. Not computer-generated muscles. I talked with James Wan [the director], who’s fond of authentic action. That’s why I got the part in Furious 7.
One scene I shared with Paul Walker required all my experience. All my moves had to be perfectly timed to land in the right place. Paul and I practiced for two weeks and on the final cut we filmed from nine in the morning till three in the morning the next day. It was the most difficult scene I have ever done.
Friendship has no boundaries. My upcoming movie, Skin Trade, is a collaborative project between a Thai company and Hollywood actors. We’re enriching each other through working together. There are more opportunities for Thai people to work around the world than ever before.
I want to see Hollywood in Thailand. I want to present the good parts of our country to the world: our beautiful culture, the taste of our food and the way Thai people behave. I want to bring more professional people here to film our country.
I am proud to finally be seen as a role model. Knowing that there are many people admiring my work and waiting to see me kick the bad guy’s ass in movies is a fulfilling, recharging thought.
Don’t be afraid. Dare to dream big and have the courage to follow your dream. More than anything, I’m proud to be Thai and to have the opportunity to show the bright side of our country on the world stage.