Legend of Suriyothai, The : Historical Notes

Spanning more than half a century, Suriyothai is a story of a country's survival. It depicts the history of the Thai kingdom Ayuthaya from the reign of King Ramathibodhi II to the great battle with King Tabinshwethi of Burma in 1548.

Ayuthaya's peace and prosperity was dependent on the descendants of four royal dynasties: Suphannabumi, U-Thong, Phra Ruang and Sri Thammasokaraj. Regardless of which family held power, the stability of the regime depended on the support and cooperation of the other royal households.

During the reign of King Ramathibodhi II, the kingdom had two monarchs: Ramathibodhi II in the south and his younger brother Phra Atitay in the north. Both were descendents of the Suphannabumi dynasty.

At the beginning of the film, we meet two members of the Phra Ruang dynasty--Suriyothai and Piren--whose fates will be joined throughout the story. Raised together since childhood, Suriyothai and Piren were regarded as brother and sister even though they were not related. Despite their love for one another, marriage was out of the question since Suriyothai was
betrothed to Tien, the son of King Atitaya. Their union was seen as a political marriage that would strengthen the ties between two very powerful royal families.

In 1529, King Ramathibodhi II died and the resulting changes in the kingdom's political structure severely tested its stability. King Atitaya moved to the north; Chairacha (the son of Ramathibodhi II) became, by royal decree, ruler of the south. Tien moved north with his father bringing Suriyothai and his children. A smallpox epidemic, political corruption, civil war and an invading army from Burma plunged the country into chaos. In the midst of this, Chairacha reestablished himself as ruler. But he was a Warrior king and often away protecting his country from neighboring armies. So it was Tien, in the role of viceroy, who was assigned the task of administering the nation's affairs as viceroy. But he could not control Srisudachan,

Chairacha's concubine from the U-Thong dynasty who, during his absence, began a relationship with a fellow member of the U-thong household. Together they plotted the successful assassination of the king and Srisudachan was made queen.

Throughout this turmoil, Suriyothai was preoccupied with the safety of her children and her husband. She also took part in a plot to overthrow the new king and queen so that Ayuthaya could return to peace and order. For this purpose she called upon her childhood friend Piren who helped to mobilized the armies, depose the king and install Tien on the throne, with Suriyothai as his queen.

News of this internal strife came to the attention of the King of Burma who assembled troops, crossed the border and surrounded the capital of Ayuthaya. A fierce battle ensued and when her husband faced certain death, Suriyothai placed herself in front of Tien and died in battle to insure the safety and future of her country.

Chatri Chalerm Yukol Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol is one of Thailand's pioneering filmmakers and an international representative of Asian cinema. Prince Chatri was born on November 29, 1942, a son of HRH
Anusorn and Mom Ubon Yukol. He was educated at Geelong Grammar School in Australia and continued his education at UCLA in Los Angeles, where he majored in Geology.

His first contact with motion pictures was when he was very young - both of his parents were early supporters of the Thai film industry. His father made the film "Lavo"(1938) before Prince Chatri Chalerm was born.

While Prince Chatri Chalerm was in Los Angeles he apprenticed under director/producer Merian C. Cooper ("Chang," "King Kong," "The Quiet Man," "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "The Searchers"). Prince Chatri Chalerm first worked in the film industry as a cameraman on a number of Thai films. He made his debut as a director and writer in television.

"Out of the Dark" was the first feature length film that Prince Chatri Chalerm directed. This was followed by "Doctor Karn. " Prince Chatri Chalerm launched the career of Thailand's leading actor Sorapong Chatri and has received Thailand's Best Director Award.

Since then, he has directed several other films and television programs,including "The Angel," "The Colonel," The Violent Breed, "The Yellow Sky," "The Citizen," "Last Love," "Gunman," "The Elephant Keeper, " "The Song Of Chaophaya," "Power Road,"
"Sia Dai," and "The Box. "

Prince Chatri Chalerm has won numerous awards as director, screenwriter, and editor. His films are shown frequently at international film festivals.

Production Facts

Yukol is a member of the Thai royal family; he carries the title of prince. Original Thai version was released in Thailand on July 12, 2001. It broke all box office records. Film was funded and largely supported by the Queen of Thailand for the purpose of educating a new generation of Thais about their history. Film was researched for 5 years. 17 months were spent in actual production. The Queen of Thailand personally inaugurated the first day of photography. Battle sequences - Thai army and navy were conscripted by the thousands.
160 elephants were used in the production. The International crew, included a Czech and Polish camera department, American and English sound department, English composer. All props were made from scratch; including authentic 16th century European, Thai and Burmese weapons. Locations (including palaces and royal grounds) were actual historical sites. Many scenes were shot in and around the ruins of the ancient capital Ayutthaya.

3500 extras were used in the battle scenes. 400 people on crew.
1400 roles of film shot (more than 1/2 million feet of film).
263 hours of sound recorded.
The 6-channel Dolby digital soundtrack was edited and mixed and Francis Coppola's American Zoetrope post facility in the Napa Valley.