Tony Jaa (Ting)
Tony Jaa has been obsessed with martial arts, and martial arts movies, since childhood. He was born Panom Yee-rum in the province of Surin, about 200 kilometers from Bangkok. On leaving school, he told his family that he planned on pursuing a career in pugilism. He dedicated every ounce of his youthful energy to his training, rising at 5.00am and training until 10.00, then resuming from afternoon to evening. Tony’s initial influence was Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan.
At the age of 15, he saw the Thai action film ‘Born To Fight’, starring and directed by Phanna Rithikrai. The student was ready, and the teacher duly appeared, in the person of Phanna himself. Phanna, a veteran of Thai action cinema, took Tony under his wing, training him in kung fu and stunt work. Tony also studied Taekwondo, swordplay and gymnastics. His skills became so advanced that he gave demonstrations in Northeast Thailand and China.
Over the next few years, Tony paid his dues in the local industry, working on movie sets as a water boy, cook and general crewmember. His first real break saw him stunt double actor Robin Shou in the Hollywood actioner ‘Mortal Kombat’. He also doubled local star James Ruengsak Loichusak and worked on the Thai TV series ‘In See Dang’.
Tony finally added his native sport to his physical repertoire, and began training in Muay Thai four years ago, specifically for his role in ‘Ong Bak’ .On its release, the film, on which he also worked as fight choreographer, became a smash hit, and it established Tony as Thailand’s top action actor.
He is currently working on his new film, ‘Tom Yum Goong’.