Tatchakorn Yeerum(Thai: ทัชชกร ยีรัมย์), formerly Panom Yeerum (Thai: พนม ยีรัมย์ [pʰanom jiːram]; born February 5, 1976 in Surin province, Isaan, Thailand), better known in the West as Tony Jaa, in Thailand as Jaa Panom, 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, 200 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 Aikido and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and he was a successful high jump athlete at university. He is still able to jump two meters high.
Tony initially worked as a stuntman on Panna'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, an ancient style of Muay Thai and worked and trained for one year 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 and 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 Dab Atamas, about the art of Thai two-sword fighting, 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.
Additionally, veteran Hong Kong martial arts coordinator Lau Kar-leung has mentioned Jaa as someone he'd like to work with.
Tony Jaa demonstrates martial arts at the American Museum of the Moving Image on August 20, 2006, during a promotional tour for The Protector.
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 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.
Tony Jaa officially registered his marriage to long time girlfriend Piyarat Chotiwattananont on 29 December, 2011, the wedding ceremony was held on 3 May, 2012. The couple is expecting their first child.
Mission Hunter 2 (aka Battle Warrior (US))
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 The Protector 2 (2012)
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1996) (stunt double for Robin Shou)
Ong Bak 2 (2008) (stunt coordinator)