Behind the Scenes on The Last Executioner

June 30, 2014
By

1464018_549783241775869_1122804385_n

FROM CHANCE MEETINGS TO A SCRIPT

Bringing the story of “The Last Executioner” to the screen has been almost as strange as the story itself.

In his January 2013 cover story for “Citylife” Magazine, scriptwriter Don Linder wrote:

“I first met Chavoret in April 2007 when he was part of a panel discussion on prison life at the FCCT (Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand). The others on the panel were Susan Aldous, known for her work with slum children and prisoners at Bang Kwang Central Prison, and the Thai owner of a travel agency who served time for money laundering. During the evening, my overwhelming impression of Chavoret was that he was so normal. Watching him sitting there in a polo shirt and Dockers – no black hood and scythe – he looked like anyone I might sit next to in Starbucks.

“When it came to the Q and A, I was surprised at how softball the questions were for the FCCT crowd. I ended up asking the last question: “You seem like a nice guy and all, but how did you reconcile your work with your Buddhism? What did you tell your family? Did you go out for beers with the guys after executions?” (It turns out he did).

“I now know that Chavoret had answered variants of these questions a thousand times before. His answers focused on karma. It was his karma to do this job, and he was compassionately helping the prisoners to achieve their karma. It was his duty, after all. At the time, this all smacked of a well devised construction of denial, or worse, an “I was just following orders” defense. I wanted to know more, so I introduced myself and asked for an interview, which his editor arranged.

“A week later, I was in Chavoret’s office at Bang Kwang’s Foreign Affairs Division which he now headed. Of course, I’d read his autobiography by then, so I knew of his background. Nevertheless, it was still very weird when, without any explanation, this 59-year-old executioner sat across his desk from me and for 30 minutes played air guitar and sang Beatles, Elvis, and Ventures songs. Then, we talked. And talked… for almost 5 hours.”

Several years later, Tom Waller (director/producer) and Don, who didn’t know each other, were seated across from each other at a mutual friend’s 50th birthday party. How the conversation got around to executions is anybody’s guess – perhaps it was karma — but on that night the film was born. Tom had always wanted to do a film or the story, and Don had the personal interactions with Chavoret to make it interesting. After many months of interviews with Chavoret’s family, childhood friends, Buddhist monk confidante, and even the drummer and his 94-year-old mother who formed Chavoret’s first band, the script was ready and filming commenced.

JAC_9471

DIRECTOR

TOM WALLER was born in Bangkok in 1974 to a Thai Buddhist mother and Irish Catholic father. He has been working as a film producer and director for over 10 years in Thailand, with notable credits BUTTERFLY MAN (2002), GHOST OF MAE NAK (2005), THE ELEPHANT KING (2006) and SOI COWBOY (2008) which was selected in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, amongst the acclaimed titles produced through his production company De Warrenne Pictures, which he founded after graduating from the Northern Film School in Leeds, England with a PGDip in Film Production in 1996.

In 2011, Waller returned to his passion for directing with the award-winning Thai language mystery thriller MINDFULNESS AND MURDER, based on the novel by Nick Wilgus and starring Vithaya Pansringarm as Father Ananda, an ex-cop Buddhist monk who investigates corruption and murder in his monastery in Bangkok. Theatrically released in Thailand by M Pictures, MINDFULNESS AND MURDER was nominated for 5 Thai National Film Awards (Subhanahongsa) in 2012, including for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. The film won Best Supporting Actor for Wannasak Sirilar. The film also won Best Director for Tom Waller and Best Actor for Vithaya Pansringarm at ThrillSpy International Film Festival. THE LAST EXECUTIONER will be Waller’s second Thai language feature film.

CREDITS AS DIRECTOR
2014 THE LAST EXECUTIONER
2011 MINDFULNESS AND MURDER
1997 MONK DAWSON

CREDITS AS PRODUCER
2013 SECRET SHARER by Peter Fudakowski
2013 NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR by Isaac Florentine
2011 ELEPHANT WHITE by Prachya Pinkaew
2010 THE PRINCE AND ME: THE ELEPHANT ADVENTURE by Catherine Cyran
2008 SOI COWBOY by Thomas Clay (Cannes Un Certain Regard)
2006 THE ELEPHANT KING by Seth Grossman
2005 GHOST OF MAE NAK by Mark Duffield
2002 BUTTERFLY MAN by Kaprice Kea

P1080712

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT
I first read about Chavoret Jaruboon in a Bangkok Post obituary in May 2012. What came across to me was that he was clearly an ordinary man who led an extraordinary life. For a man who wanted to be a rock’n’roll singer, becoming a prison executioner would seem like an unlikely vocation. This is a man who went from holding a guitar to holding a gun – it was as if at times, he was living a double life. In his later years he had even become a minor celebrity in Thailand, as a guest on gameshows and chat shows, celebrated for performing his duties in taking the lives of 55 condemned prisoners.

It was perhaps for Chavoret, fame for all the wrong reasons. Yet Chavoret had led his life with a sense of duty, pride and diligence for his job, not once questioning why or how the condemned came to end up on death row. How does a man given with such a task of taking so many lives reconcile with his karma? This was initially what interested me most in making a film inspired by the story of his life.

However, after speaking to his widow and family, I realized there were different layers to this man. Not only was he a dutiful servant of the state, but he was also a wonderful husband and a loving family man. After all, raising his family in many ways, was the reason he entered the prison service in the first place. It paid more bills than playing the guitar would, but working at Bang Kwang prison, ultimately, led to living with demons inside his head.

Often troubled by these ‘spirits‘ that haunted him, Chavoret turned to monks for moral guidance, seeking to make amends for his acts of killing. But it is as if his karma came around to punish him in the end, with cancer that took his own life after enduring much suffering. Don Linder’s screenplay tells the story of Chavoret’s extraordinary life with much panache, illustrating his inner turmoil and conflicted efforts to reconcile with his karma.

JAC_2313

SCREENPLAY
DON LINDER is a writer, editor, photographer, and academic who has travelled, lived, and written on five continents. A native-born New Yorker, he did his undergrad and graduate studies in Comparative Literature at Columbia University where he minored in Film Studies under Andrew Sarris the noted proponent of the auteur theory of film criticism.

Don’s work and travels have included director of English programs in the U.S., the Canary Islands, China, and Thailand; writing program director for Poets & Writers, Inc., the State University of New York, and the North Carolina Arts Council; jazz and blues radio host in New York City and radio lecturer in China; New York City taxi driver; plus travel and culture writer worldwide, notably in Mongolia and Morocco. Don has written and acted for Japanese cable TV and taught scriptwriting in Egypt, Brazil, and the U.S. “The Last Executioner” is his first feature-length film.

After ten years in Bangkok, Don now lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with his wife, Lida.

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *