Panna Rittikrai, the action choreographer who introduced Thai action movies to world audiences, has died aged 53.
According to local press reports, Panna died from liver disease on Sunday in a Bangkok hospital. He had been battling illness since November 2013.
Born in 1961 in Khon Kaen province, Panna started working in the Bangkok film industry in 1979 training actors to fight. After moving back to his hometown, he put together his own stunt team and started making action movies. He trained Tony Jaa and had a major hit in 2003 with Ong Bak, produced by Sahamongkolfilm.
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew, Ong Bak introduced a new style of realistic, wire-free action choreography and put the Thai martial art of Muay Thai on the world map. It was swiftly followed by Tom Yum Goong (aka The Protector), reuniting the same team.
Panna soon turned director, as well as action choreographer, and directed a string of films for Sahamongkol including The Bodyguard, Ong Bak 2 and Ong Bak 3, all starring Tony Jaa, along with BKO: Bangkok Knockout featuring a bevy of Thai martial artists and mixed martial arts.
He also trained female martial artist JeeJa Yanin, and handled action choreography on her first film, Chocolate, also directed by Prachya Pinkaew.
Panna’s last film before his illness was Vengeance Of An Assassin, starring Choopong Changprung and Nattawut Boonrabsap, which has yet to be released.