Bangkok Report: Dead Or Alive

High drama as Christopher Lee keeps breathing and Oliver Stone talks World Trade Center...

Deep inside the fuggy blanket-heat of downtown Bangkok, the BIFF aims to sweat out a hot-pot of Thai filmmaking exuberance, a celebration of local passions and a chance for the world to savour the rich twang of a vital culture. So far, the best movie screened has been The Man With The Golden Gun.

On Monday, Total Film watched Gun’s tri-nippled uber-villain Christopher Lee roll in on a golf buggy (conference room five stories up, legs not good) to boost proceedings with his star wattage and rumble over a career spanning, well, centuries if you’d believe him. “I once held the record for number of films made,” explained the cine-Methuselah, seriously. “I now hold the record for swordfights on screen. Seventeen. Someone counted them. It’s a record. And I know more about James Bond than anyone else alive. It’s a record I am alive!” Indeed.

Oliver Stone didn’t need a golf buggy. He didn’t have a movie to promote either, but as the fest's highest profile guest by some stretch, the incendiary director’s presence yesterday was hotly anticipated. Fielding baits about politics and Thai cinema from the gathered crowd, Stone was relieved to tell Total Film about his sure-to-be controversial World Trade Center drama. Forget politics for now, says Stone, this is a human film. “It’s a 24-hour document of the stories of two port authority policemen who were trapped at the heart of the destruction,” the director told us. “Basically, it’s an investigation of how they survived, how they survived mentally, in extraordinary conditions.” So are US audiences ready to handle a 9/11 movie? Stone remains philosophical. “I don’t know… I mean, is America ready for gay sex? I’m not in the business of knowing whether it’s ready. I hope for the best.”

Whatever happens, Stone was at pains to point out that he’s already suffered the worst sting of his career. Vietnam trauma? The JFK bite-back? Alexander’s critical mauling? No. Missing out on directing Evita? Yes. “My biggest mistake was not to make it,” he sighed, suddenly cutting a genuinely forlorn figure. “It was a heartbreaker for me. The story was a great actress role – I wanted Meryl Streep or Michelle Pfeiffer. Madonna, although she’s talented, was able to do the hooker but she wasn’t able to do the saint.”

With that in mind, Total Film left him wading manfully through swathes of autograph-grabbers and motored off into Bangkok central to procure a free drink (singular), courtesy of kind sponsors Jameson’s whiskey. Our tuk-tuk driver, though, had his owns ideas and instead took TF to its first Thai brothel, a place where the beer flows cheaply, dreams come true and the women are stacked 20 wide and three deep. Thailand: truly The Land Of Smiles.