Killer thriller

Yaya Ying does her thing

By Tatat Bunnag
Photographs by Varuth Hirunyatheb,
and courtesy by M Pictures

Did you know

Yaya Ying’s favourite movie is Life of Pi.

Thai movie-goers will be excited to hear that the highly-anticipated Only God Forgives will be opening in local cinemas this week. Only God Forgives is an action-packed thriller that sees Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn team up once again with Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Gosling, who he worked with on the popular 2011 film, Drive.

As well as being mostly set on the streets of Bangkok, Only God Forgives also stars appealing 28-year-old singer and actress Rhatha Phongam (Yaya Ying), giving a Thai star a rare chance to shine in a big international production.

Student Weekly recently caught up Yaya Ying to hear about her experiences making Only God Forgives.

Student Weekly: Can you tell us the plot of Only God Forgives?

Yaya Ying: The movie is mainly about Julian, played by Ryan Gosling, who is an English mafia guy running a Muay Thai gym in Bangkok. The gym is actually a front for a drug smuggling operation. Julian has a serious conflict with local police, and things get more complicated when the big boss asks him to take revenge on whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

Student Weekly: Where does your character fit into the film?

Yaya Ying: I play a nightclub singer named Mai. She’s quite religious and has a strong sense of dignity. She becomes involved in Julian’s life and witnesses all the bad things he does. Mai also causes a turning point toward the end of the film.

Student Weekly: How did you become involved with this film?

Yaya Ying: About four years ago, my singing contract with GMM Grammy ended, and I was looking for acting work through a film production company. When Nicolas planned to shoot his movie in Thailand, I was looking for a part. Luckily I was called for an interview and I got the job.

Student Weekly: Why did the film take several years to make?

Yaya Ying: There were so many obstacles that kept delaying the production. First Nicolas was called back to LA to finish some work on Drive, and then we had the major flooding in Thailand. I was worried I might lose the job, but I was very fortunate that everything worked out.

Student Weekly: How many different locations were used in the movie?

Yaya Ying: The film was shot at a few different locations¬, including Rangsit, RCA and Chinatown. The production took around four months to complete.

Student Weekly: What was it like working with a superstar like Ryan Gosling?

Yaya Ying: I’m no different to any other girl, so I was super excited to meet Ryan. But I knew that I should behave myself and try to remain as professional as possible. I didn’t ask for his autograph or take pictures with him at all during the shoot. I tried not to be near him too much, even though I wanted to so badly! [Laughs.] Ryan is very nice and quite a funny guy.

Student Weekly: What’s your best memory from working on the film?

Yaya Ying: To have my name alongside Kristin Scott Thomas and Ryan Gosling as the credits roll is amazing. I feel fortunate and proud to be in this film. It’s a good action-drama film with a gripping story, and some philosophical ideas about karma and sin. Anybody who is interested should definitely see it at the cinema.


  • anticipate (v): to think with pleasure and excitement about something that is going to happen
    appealing (adj): attractive or interesting
    front (n): a person or an organisation that is used to hide an illegal or secret activity
    smuggling (n): to crime of taking, sending or bringing goods secretly and illegally into or out of a country
    dignity (n): a calm and serious manner that deserves respect
    turning point (n): the time when an important change takes place, usually with the result that a situation improves
    obstacle (n): a situation, event, etc. that makes it difficult for you to do or achieve something
    delay (v): to not do something until a later time
    gripping (adj): exciting or interesting in a way that keeps your attention
    philosophical (adj): connected with thinking about the meaning of the universe and of human life
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