Francis Ford Coppola is poised to board the recut international version of Suriyothai, the epic Thai historical drama directed by Prince MC Chatrichalerm Yukol.
The $14m picture, which closes the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) on Saturday (Nov 17) night, currently runs to three hours and five minutes. It recounts the life and exploits of 16th century Queen Suriyothai who died in battle defending her country and her husband against the Burmese and Portuguese armies. The new version is expected to see the running time shrink to approximately two hours.
"It was always in my mind to do an international version. Western audiences are less interested in the details of Thai history and would prefer to see it as a cultural experience and entertainment," said Prince Chatrichalerm.
Coppola's American Zoetrope is understood to be one of several discussion partners. But it is by far the most advanced. Coppola's precise role is likely to be defined sometime in the next month. Prince Chatrichalerm said that the discussions include the possibility of elevating the film to a full US-Thailand co-production, while Gerald Dibbayawan, who heads the film's sales agent GMT Entertainment, said that use of the 'Francis Ford Coppola presents' label has also been discussed.
Dibbayawan, who has withdrawn the film from the international sales market, said: "This may become a Zoetrope release or [when it has been recut] we can return to the negotiating partners we previously discussed the film with. In all cases they have either their own distribution capabilities or connections with the Majors."
First off, however, is a visit next week by Coppola to Bangkok and a return visit by Prince Chatrichalerm to San Francisco. "In my original script the story was told from the point of view of a Portuguese soldier. We may return to that. We may re-shoot some parts, but we will not change the story line," said Prince Chatrichalerm.
The film was partly conceived as an educational project. The prince originally delivered an eight hour version for Thai domestic consumption. This will now be turned into a television mini-series.
The prince's wife ML Kamla Yukol, who produced the picture, said that financing for the picture came through her own company and denied suggestions that it was paid for by the Thai court.
The Prince said that he has known Coppola for some 30 years, since the time when they were contemporaries at UCLA. "He said to me that he liked the film very much, but that there could be ways of improving it."