Q&A: Ananda Everingham

'Eagle' star talks about not being Western or Asian

BUSAN, South Korea -- Ananda Everingham is one of Thailand’s most prolific and popular film stars. And he ain’t even Thai. The son of an Australian father and a Laotian mother whose meeting was loosely dramatized in the 1983 NBC television movie, “Love Is Forever,” starring Michael Landon and Laura Gemser, Everingham was discovered at 14 while working in his family’s Bangkok Indian restaurant.

Since then, he has appeared in a steady stream of Thai movies and television, including his leading role in the 2004 Thai horror movie “Shutter,” the title that put him on the map. In 2005, he starred in the Singaporean romance film, “The Leap Years.” In 2008, Everingham produced and starred in the first commercial film made in 33 years his maternal homeland of Laos, “Good Morning, Luang Prabang.”

A pan-Asian man and an agent of both East and West, Everingham, now 28, caught up with The Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Landreth over the phone from Bangkok on the eve of his arrival at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival, Asia’s largest cinema event. PIFF will screen two films in which Everingham stars: the Gala Presentation and International Premiere of action hero picture “The Red Eagle,” by director Wisit Sasanatieng; and the World Premiere of the art house film “HI-SO,” by USC Film School graduate and “Wonderful Town” director Aditya Assarat.
“The Red Eagle” is the latest attempt to revive a popular 1960s film character played by Mitr Chaibancha, who died 40 years ago this weekend shooting the last in a 10-film series of the same name. How did you feel starring in the remake of such a legendary property?

Ananda Everingham: For me, if you know anything about the history of the film, well, you can understand that the role felt like it was big shoes to fill. I haven’t even seen the finished film. I couldn’t see the world premiere [in Bangkok, Oct. 4]. There was too much pressure to march into the theater, in front of all the people you care about, and sit down and watch. It was a mixture of nervousness and pride. After the film opens in Thailand cinemas, I plan to go buy a ticket and see it on my own.
Why is “The Red Eagle” important for you, Thai cinema, and Five Star Production, the oldest movie studio in Thailand?

Everingham: Lots of Thai films are pigeonholed in the minds of people around the world. We’ve had this problem for some time. When you think of Thai movies, you think of muay thai [Thai kickboxing martial arts] and prostitutes, or grade B horror films. It’s about time we were able to produce a grade-A action film. If “Red Eagle” can travel based on its production values, it will speak volumes for our industry and what’s to come.
Tell us about your role, as a character called Ananda, in Aditya Assarat and Pop Pictures’ new art house film “HI-SO,” about the complications of love relationships in Bangkok’s increasingly cosmopolitan landscape.

Everingham: I play myself, but the dilemmas of the character are the dilemmas of the director. We spent six or seven years talking about this project, but didn’t really know one another before we started talking about it. We learned that come from similar backgrounds, having lived part of our lives overseas. We both kind of feel we don’t really fit into one specific culture. We’re not Western and we’re not totally Asian either.
Sahamongkolfilm International is taking a film called “Eternity,” in which you play the lead, to the American Film Market in Los Angeles in November. It’s about a rich country uncle whose young city bride falls for his young nephew in a romantic tragedy. Since a slow, mid-Sept. release, the film has grossed more than $1 million at the Thai box office, a decent showing for this kind of film. But here at Pusan this week, there’s another film of the same title from Pop Pictures in which you had no involvement. Will one “Eternity” challenge the other at the Thai boxoffice?

Everingham: They’re such different films. Pop Pictures’ “Eternity” [by director Sivaroj Kongsakul] is out-and-out art house, whereas the one I star in for Sahamongkol is a classic period piece set in the 1920s and based on a well-known novel.

So it’s yet another film, like “Red Eagle,” whose story is revered in Thailand. Did you feel the pressure on this project, too? 

Everingham: I worry like everybody else worries about these things, but when it comes time to play the role, the worries drop away. When you have to act the part, you just let fear go.

VITAL STATS: Ananda Everingham
Nationality: Australian
Birth: May 31, 1982, in Bangkok, Thailand
Selected filmography:
“The Red Eagle” (2010); “Hi-Fo” (2010); “Eternity” (2010); “Happy Birthday” (2008); “The Coffin” (2008); “Sabaidee Luang Prabang” (2008); “Sorn” (2008); The Leap Years” (2007); Bangkok Time (2007); “Ploy” (2007); “Me... Myself” (2007); “Bangkok Time” (2007); “Pleasure Factory” (2007); “Ploy” (2007); “Shutter” (2004); “Ghost Delivery” (2003); “303 Fear Faith Revenge” (1998); “Anda kub Fahsai” (1997).
Notable awards: Pusan Film Festival, Star Summit Curtain Call (2007)