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No Mutiny from Extras on 'The Railway Man' Say Producers

The Railway Man - H 2012

Complaints from an extra on the Bangkok set of the Colin Firth film, about pay rates and working conditions, are refuted by producer and co writer, Andy Paterson.

SYDNEY - Producers of  Colin Firth’s new film, The Railway Man, have refuted claims of a mutiny by extras over poor pay rates and working conditions recently reported from the film’s set in Bangkok, Thailand.

According to a report in the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday newspaper, extras on the Australian-U.K. coproduction, which also stars Nicole Kidman, were “forced to work a 13-hour day with just one meal and for 1800 Thai Baht ($57) a day."

After being “pushed around” by cast playing Japanese officers in extreme heat, the extras playing prisoners of war along the infamous Thai-Burma railway, walked off the set, with only a handful remaining to finish scenes, according to the report.

But British producer and co-writer Andy Paterson, who was on set for the shoot, told THR that the extras pay rates were in line with the standard rates in Thailand, and, far from a mutiny, buses waiting to take extras home at the end of the shoot were delayed as many did not want to leave.

The report was based on the experience of one extra, Bangkok-based freelance photographer Andrew Chant, who picked up the two days work and was paid 1,800 Thai Baht a day ($57), after agent's fees and withholding taxes are taken out. The producers were paying THB 2,200 gross a day to extras.

Extras aren’t covered by unions or specific awards in Thailand and that rate is considered standard across the industry there.

“The average monthly wage in Thailand is somewhere between THB 9,000 and THB 15,000, (depending on which source you believe), but you'll see that the going rate is a very reasonable amount of money,” Paterson said.

In addition conditions included two meals, sunscreen, chilled water, tents, luxury coaches and shade between takes in what Paterson said, while admittedly hot was an was an “extremely friendly atmosphere.” with cast including Firth and Jeremy Irvine posing happily for photos with extras.

“There was no mutiny,” Paterson said. “We had an embarrassment of extras who wanted to stay on as they were having great fun. In the end, one of the buses taking extras home was delayed because people didn't want to leave.”

He said the crews were among some of the best he’s worked with and all the local extras and AD’s were “fantastic.”

It was a “shame the Mail on Sunday stooped this low as it reflects badly on an industry which is trying very hard to bring in business,” Paterson added.

In the film, directed by Australian Jonathan Teplitzky, Firth plays Eric Lomax, a British POW who was tortured while working on the Thai/Burma railway during World War II, who returns to confront his Japanese tormentor, Nagase, played by Hiroyuki Sanada.

The final weeks of principal photography on the film are currently under way in Australia, after shoots in Scotland and Thailand, with Firth on Tuesday fronting local media, saying that the great challenge was to get into the mindset of a man who had experienced torture.

“It's a complicated journey, someone trying to find forgiveness for something which is arguably unforgivable. It was an extraordinarily powerful experience,' Firth said.

He added that he’s happy to be working on a U.K.-Australian co-production.

"This isn't just a business arrangement between the U.K. and Australia, it is also historically, culturally and in a personal way a story which represents the narrative of both countries and their people," he said. "Hellfire Pass, which is one of the sites heavily featured in the film, is now an Australian war memorial and I think a lot of people from both countries will connect with the story we are telling."

Sanada said he hoped the film would help educate younger Japanese about a little-told part of their history.

"I think we have an education problem in Japan," he said. "Nobody knows what happened. That's why I thought this was a good chance to re-examine what happened in the past and think about now and the future for me and the younger generation [to make] a better future together.

Jonathan Handel in Los Angeles and Georg Szalai in London contributed additional reporting.