Twentieth Century Fox has picked up Thai distribution rights to local action drama Beautiful Boxer produced by GMM Pictures - the film arm of Thai entertainment giant GMM Grammy.

Directed by Singapore's Ekachai Uekrongtham, the film tells the real-life story of Parinya Charoenphol, affectionately nicknamed Nong Toom in Thailand, a kickboxer who fought to earn money for a sex change operation.

According to Fox senior vice president, Asia Pacific, Bob Girard, the studio is also looking at buying the film for other territories in the region. The deal for Thailand was negotiated by the general manager of Fox's Thai operation, Henry Tran.

The US$2.5m film stars professional kickboxer Asanee Suwan who was hired after a series of high-profile auditions around the country. Nong Toom, who finally had the operation in 1999, makes a guest appearance in the film, while Australian-born Singaporean star Keagan Kang plays a foreign journalist who covers her story.

"The film has comic moments but it isn't a slapstick comedy - we're not laughing at Nong Toom," said Uekrongtham. "Drama and action are driving the film - we hope it's going to be touching."

Fox plans to open Beautiful Boxer on around 100 prints on November 28. A gala premiere is scheduled for November 26 with the sister of Thailand's king - HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana - in attendance.

Fox is becoming increasingly involved in releasing local-language movies in Asia. The company handled distribution in several Asian territories of Zhang Yimou's martial arts epic Hero. It is also ramping up acquisitions in the Indian market and had a hit earlier this year with period drama Pinjar.