Now, the same film board has banned the Jodie Foster-Chow Yun-Fat flick altogether, meaning Thais won't get to see Hollywood's spin on their 19th century history.
According to the 19-member National Film Board, the film was declared "illegal" based on a 1930 law prohibiting filmmakers from portraying the Thai monarchy in a disrepectful way. "The film on Anna and the King has several scenes that distort history and insult the king and most members of the censorship board ruled to ban it," board chairman Police Major General Prakat Sataman said today at a press conference.
Thais take their royalty very seriously--insulting the monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Technically, Fox has 15 days to appeal the ruling or edit the film, but one board member said the studio would have to snip the film down to 20 minutes to pass muster.
The board wasn't too keen with Tinseltown's spin on King Mongkut (aka Rama IV), a 19th century Western-minded reformer worshipped by many in the country as a saint. "The filmmakers have made King Mongkut look like a cowboy who rides on the back of an elephant as if he is in a cowboy movie," board member Thepmontri Limpayom said. "In one scene Chow Yun-Fat pushes the king's crown and his portrait down to the floor--that's totally unacceptable." Another scene has the king eating with lowly chopsticks, not a spoon, the preferred royal utensil.
It was such perceived royal disses that caused the film board to keep Fox from filming Anna and the King on location in Thailand in the first place. (Malaysia stood in for Siam.)
Furthermore, the film is based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, an English teacher employed to school the king's 50-some kids, widely regarded by scholars as exaggerating her own skills, while depicting the king as buffoonish. (Historians say Leonowens actually had little contact with King Mongkut.)
This makes the second Hollywood movie about Leonowens and Mongkut to be banned in Thailand. The 1956 Oscar winner, The King and I, which starred Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, has never been screened in the country.