Tony Jaa in 2005
February 5, 1976
Surin province, Isan, Thailand
Japanom Yeerum (Thai: จาพนม ยีรัมย์), formerly Tatchakorn Yeerum (Thai: ทัชชกร ยีรัมย์; RTGS: Thatchakon Yiram) or Panom Yeerum (Thai: พนม ยีรัมย์; RTGS: Phanom Yiram; [pʰanom jiːram]; born February 5, 1976 in Surin province, Isaan, Thailand). Better known in the West as Tony Jaa, in Thailand as Jaa Panom (Thai: จา พนม; RTGS: Cha Phanom), is a Thai martial artist, physical educator, actor, choreographer, stuntman, director, and spent time as a Buddhist monk. His films include Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, Tom-Yum-Goong (also called Warrior King or The Protector), Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning, and Ong Bak 3.
Tony Jaa was raised in a rural area, 400 km from Bangkok and as he grew up he watched films by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Vince Lam 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. When he was 10 years old, he threatened his father that he would kill himself if he was not taught muay Thai.
"What they [Chan, Lee and Li] 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."
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. He has trained for an unspecified time in taekwondo although there are no details regarding if this was in formal taekwondo training or as part of his stunt team member apprenticeship. Likewise, he is highly skilled in muay Thai but there is no evidence at present to suggest a formal training history or competitive career.
Jaa was also trained in various kungfu styles as well as aikido, judo, krabi krabong, silat, lethwei and kino mutai which he can be seen using in the Ong Bak and Tum Yum Goong films. He was a successful high jump athlete at university. He is still able to jump two meters high.
Tony Jaa's most notable stunt work was being the stunt man for the character of Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat Annihilation. Tony initially worked as a stuntman in gurdaspur for 14 years in patti's and subedar's team, 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 around 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.
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 was 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, The Battle to end all Battles 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.
Return to acting
After leaving the monastery, it came as a surprise to all that Jaa accepted a deal with Sahamongkol film company. He is set to film Tom-Yum-Goong 2 in the near future, 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 are set to return for this film.
Jaa will team up with Dolph Lundgren in the action film A Man Will Rise and Skin Trade (to be directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham). In August 2013, it was reported that Jaa has signed up for a role in the blockbuster film Fast & Furious 7.
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 had their first child.
- Spirited Killer (1994)
- Hard Gun (1996)
- Mission Hunter 2 (aka Battle Warrior (US)) (1996)
- Nuk leng klong yao (2001)
- Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003)
- The Bodyguard (2004) (as Panom Yeerum) (Cameo)
- Tom-Yum-Goong (aka Honor of the Beast or Warrior King (UK) or The Protector (US)) (2005)
- The Bodyguard 2 (2007) (Cameo)
- Ong Bak 2 (2008)
- Ong Bak 3 (2010)
- Tom Yum Goong 2 (2013)
- A Man Will Rise (2014)
- Fast & Furious 7 (2014)
- Skin Trade (2015)
- SPL 2: Rise of Wong Po (2015)
- Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) (stunt double for Robin Shou - uncredited)
- Tom-Yum-Goong (2005) (stunt actor - uncredited)
- Ong Bak 2 (2008) (stunt coordinator)
- Ong Bak 3 (2010) (stunt coordinator)
- Khaosod - Tony Ja Yeerum (Thai)
- "เปิดหนังสือยกเลิกสัญญาของ "จา พนม" แฉ "สหฯ" สุดแสบ ส่งจม.ต่อสัญญาอัตโนมัติ ไปให้ "พ่อ จา พนม"". Manager Online. 2013-09-04. Retrieved 2013-10-27. (Thai)
- ""จาพนม" ร่อนจดหมายแฉสัญญากับสหฯ 10 ปีไม่ต่างอะไรกับ "ลูกจ้าง"". Manager Online. 2013-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-27. (Thai)
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- "Jackie Chan says he plugged Thai Tony Jaa for 'Rush Hour 3,' but he didn't sign on". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
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- Twitch Film,"Martial Arts Director Lau Kar-Leung prepares for his Kung Fu Masterpiece: Heroes of Shaolin", June 16, 2006.
- News: Tony Jaa And Prachya Pinkaew Reunite For TOM YUM GOONG 2. Twitchfilm.com. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
- Fresh Details On Dolph Lundgren And Tony Jaa's A MAN WILL RISE
- Collura, Scott (2013-08-23). "Ong Bak's Tony Jaa Joins Fast and Furious 7". IGN. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
- ""จาพนม-บุ้งกี๋"อุ้มท้องฉลองสมรสชื่นมื่น(ชมภาพชุด)" (in Thai). Daily News. 2012-05-03. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- "Plook mun kuen ma kah 4". IMDB.
- "Puen hode". IMDB.
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