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  1. #1
    Mid
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    The Railway Man.

    Modern 'mutiny' on Death Railway:
    Andrew Drummond
    16 June 2012

    Extras playing British POW's in Colin Firth movie leave set after being pushed around by 'Japanese guards' for 13 hours (for 2.80 an hour)
    • Extras started with breakfast at 8.15am and were not fed again until 5pm
    • They got 36.42 per day (2.80 and hour) but last straw was when they were told their overtime would be 4 an hour
    The prisoners of war were at breaking point. All day long they had been kept at a Thai railway marshalling yard in the tropical heat, covered in grime, drenched in sweat, prodded and pushed by Japanese guards shouting from the tops of cattle trucks that the prisoners were expected to board.

    The wagons were there to transport them to the infamous Death Railway running from Thailand to Burma – but the prisoners couldn’t take any more.

    The Mail on Sunday has been told that, ignoring shouts of ‘Wait’ and ‘Hold on’, they walked off... the film set.


    Extras standing along the train lines at the Bangsue train yard in Bangkok, Thailand on the set of The Railway Man. They ultmately refused to do overtime and left the crew with a few, mainly Iranian extras posing as European POW's


    It was the last day of shooting on The Railway Man, a film starring Oscar-winners Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.

    Based on the book of the same name by British war veteran Eric Lomax, it is an account of how he came to terms with his treatment by Japanese torturers in Thailand 70 years ago.

    And just as it had affected the real Second World War prisoners on the Burma-Siam railway – also the subject of David Lean’s 1957 Oscar-winner The Bridge On The River Kwai – The Mail on Sunday has been told that the tropical heat, lack of food and relentless orders were too much for many of the 100 extras playing British victims of Japanese brutality on set in Bangkok.

    It’s said most just walked off, leaving only 17 Iranians and a handful of backpackers to finish shooting in the Bangkok darkness.


    Jeremy Irvine, left, and Colin Firth, right, pose on set in front of a steam train at Hualamphong train station in Bangkok, Thailand. Both actors play former POW Eric Lomax at different stages in his life


    The mutinous extras complained that many of them started work at 8.15am, having been given a small, cold dish of boiled rice with a tiny serving of chicken curry at breakfast.

    They were not fed again until 5pm, when they were offered the same meal. On some days, they started at 6.30am.
    They got 1,800 Thai baht for a 13-hour day (36.42 per day or 2.80 an hour), which the film-makers say is the going rate in Thailand.

    20 TAKES IN THE HEAT... AND A WOMAN COLLAPSED

    Briton Andrew Chant, a freelance photographer in Bangkok, was an extra for two days. Here he describes the conditions on set:

    I have to salute the extras on this film because the conditions were awful – with a standard 13-hour day in blinding tropical heat and a rate of pay I’ve not seen since summer farm work as a teenager.



    On the first day I left home at 5.45am and did not get back until after 8pm – without a chance for a shower – and was fed with only one dish of rice and pork.

    In the afternoon, a Thai woman who was playing a railway station bystander had collapsed in the heat and was treated by medical staff.

    It was during one of more than 20 takes of a scene on a platform at Bangkok’s main train station.

    At the end of the day we were forced to stand in rows and allowed to go into the changing area, ten at a time, to collect our own clothes.

    At 8.15am the next day, I was given the same khaki uniform, unwashed from the day before. It was still drenched with sweat.

    They agreed to give me a dry shirt when I complained.

    It must have been even worse for the ‘Japanese guards’, who were placed on top of the trains for hours.

    There had been rumblings all day about the conditions and pay, just 1,800 baht (36.42).

    Before my second day was due to finish, the production team tried to select who they needed for the last take, but almost everybody walked off the set.

    Back at the changing area, I had to get help from two Thais to peel the shirt off my back.

    Again there were no showers so we had to put clean clothes on top of filthy bodies.

    The last straw came with an announcement by German production manager Ralf Eisenmann that overtime would be paid at 200 baht (4) an hour and extras would get just half that for transport home after midnight.

    It’s said to have made many extras unwilling to continue despite pleas by managers.

    Fortunately for the film-makers, enough extras in British PoW uniforms remained to complete the final scene.

    Extras playing the Japanese guards were too polite to complain.

    The film’s producer and co-writer, Andy Paterson, accepted some British extras threatened to go home, but blamed this on agitation.

    He said there were more than enough extras willing to work the overtime.

    ‘The extras came back day after day and had a great time,’ he said. ‘I know my productions inside out and take great pride in the way we treat people.’

    The Railway Man is the story of Lomax, a Scottish officer in the Royal Signals who was tortured by the Japanese Kempeitai military police after being taken prisoner in Singapore in 1941 and sent to work on the Death Railway.

    The trauma affected him for most of his life and he was treated by a foundation for victims of torture.

    Eventually he found peace after tracking down the Kempeitai interpreter, Nagase Takashi, who was at all his interrogations and beatings.

    Firth plays Lomax the returning veteran, with Jeremy Irvine taking the role of younger Lomax. Kidman is his wife Patti.

    The so-called mutiny in Bangkok is unlikely to affect the way the industry treats extras in Thailand. Film companies come to Thailand for its cheap labour and pick up extras to play foreigners in films by word of mouth, or through leafleting bars.

    Tom Stanton, from Peterborough, was one of those who refused to do the overtime. He lives in Thailand, making a living through modelling and advertising work, which are better paid than the film industry.

    He said: ‘Most people here earn much more from other jobs. But if they’re not busy, then they’ll do extra work as you get to meet good people who you only see on films.’

    Chris Ashford, 30, from Brighton, was one of very few Westerners to stay on for the last scene. ‘I’m surviving on 200 baht per day so an hour’s overtime will last me a whole day. I might even have a beer!’ he said.

    The Railway Man is due to be released next year.

    dailymail.co.uk

  2. #2
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by article
    There had been rumblings all day about the conditions and pay, just 1,800 baht (36.42).
    That's not bad for extras, and is the going rate.
    Unfortunately agencies get involved as well, and will keep between 300 - 500 bht as a "finders fee", leaving the individual with enough cash for a few beers.
    It's a good laugh, but wont make a man a healthy bank account.

  3. #3
    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    Looks an interesting read, Mid. Just had it delivered to my Kindle. (Love this ordering and having it in your Kindle 1 minute later!)

  4. #4
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    My dad worked in the film industry and told me the following story.

    Whilst making a film about some event during the Pacific war, none of the extras hired to play the Japs could speak a word of Japanese and were silent whilst bullying the ' prisoner ' extras.

    To get around the language problem they were required to repeat the following phrases very quickly at suitable intervals :

    ' I tie your shoe '
    ' You tie my shoe '

    Which apparently sounded Japanese enough !

  5. #5
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Good job it wasn't the Atlantic against the Germans.

    "You shit in my shoe"
    "I shit in your shoe"

  6. #6
    ความสุขในอีสาน
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    Ironic The Mail reporting this , that is one paper garunteed to back Tory policy of driving wages down to the bottom , destroying trade unions and employment legislation designed to protect workers from exactly this kind of exploitation .

    Lets hope Cameron + his cronies aint getting any more ideas from reading this at the breakfast table , where he will be eating the best dry cured organic bacon + large free range organic eggs + truffles + home made crumpets freshly delivered from Fortnum + Mason's

    Well in these times of austerity were all in this together
    I'm proud of my 38" waist , also proud I have never done drugs

  7. #7
    M.A.D
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    Nice read Mid,


    I can not green you but will make it up later.


    There is many things to be said about this... Carra

  8. #8
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    the tropical heat, lack of food and relentless orders were too much for many of the 100 extras playing British victims of Japanese brutality on set in Bangkok.
    Didn't know that extras used "method acting" to enhance their craft? Well played to them, I say.

    Ahem, "The Railway Man" is a superb story and account of Lomax's life as a POW on this railway. And his return to Thailand to meet one of his Japanese guard tormentors.
    I read this book over 15 years ago. Lomax's experiences probably mirror what happened at the same location to a relative of mine.

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