Friday, May 26, 2006

My (small) part in Tomb Raider

In the early part of 2000 I received an email from Sam Breckman, the London-based Locations Manager for Paramount Pictures, yes, those heavyweights from Hollywood. He'd seen my website and wanted to come to Gloucester to talk about my experiences in Cambodia. Why? Because he was interested in using the country for a film that Oliver Stone was taking on, called Beyond Borders, and would star Meg Ryan. My gast was flabbered but of course I said yes. At the same time, a contact from Cambodia by the name of Nick Ray was also in the UK, doing his bit for the new Lonely Planet England edition, Nick being the editor for the Cambodia guidebook version though born in Watford. Are you still with me?

My idea was to regale Sam with my love of Cambodia, show him my photos and to match-make Nick with Sam, as Nick had the ability to make Sam's idea come to fruition. The three-way get-together was a rip-roaring success, Sam was hooked. Within a week of our meeting, Sam and Nick flew to Cambodia, scouted various locations relentlessly for a week and it was a done deal. Beyond Borders would be filmed in Cambodia. That was until Oliver Stone decided to pull out. The film was shelved. However, soon after, another film took up the challenge of using Cambodia in its production, and that film was Tomb Raider.

Nick, having already persuaded Paramount that filming in Cambodia was a real possibility, then had to come up with the goods, which he duly did. As the Locations Manager for the Cambodia leg of the film, he was responsible, alongwith his future wife Kulikar, for the successful shooting of the first Hollywood film in Cambodia, and particularly Angkor, for over 35 years, since Peter O'Toole's Lord Jim. Tomb Raider premiered in mid-2001 and Nick and Kulikar were flown to Los Angeles for the opening night. Lucky buggers. Oh I nearly forgot, the gorgeous Angelina Jolie was the star of the film, and also starred in Beyond Borders, when it was eventually shot, in Thailand, in 2002. Nick and Kulikar were involved in that film too.

Why have I brought this up now? Well, yesterday I received an email from a Canadian production company who want to film a documentary in Cambodia for their country's History Channel. Who are the bees-knees when it comes to filming in Cambodia, Nick and Kulikar of course - their company is called Hanuman Films - and I pointed the producer in their direction.

Over the years I've had half a dozen enquiries from documentary producers, of which the coolest one came from the National Geographic tv channel and asked me would I consider taking a small camera crew into the Cambodian jungle to search for ancient temples! Yeah right, someone was pulling my leg. But no, the crew would fly in from Singapore and I'd already suggested the Koh Ker complex of temples as a potential target. Whilst it was an incredible opportunity, it wasn't one I could follow-up due to work commitments and it was forgotten. That is until I saw a Nat Geo documentary a year later that had Prof Charles Higham, a noted SEA archaeological scholar, taking a camera crew into the recently-discovered temples of Koh Ker in a film called Guardians of Angkor. The guardians turned out to be landmines and it was exactly the angle of temples and landmines that I'd suggested to Nat Geo a year before. Sometimes you just have to leave it to the professionals!
To read more about Nick's company, Hanuman Films, click here.

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