Manager Online | Features

Little big stars

By Lim Li Min
13 January 2006 17:40
Films starring kids are growing more popular. What’s it like for the young actors?

Thailand used to be something of a black hole for talented tykes, with no recent local versions of Haley Joel Osmond or Dakota Fanning. That was until Fan Chan (My Girl) came along. The film became 2003’s most unexpected blockbuster. Set in the 1980s, Fan Chan was a feel-good jaunt down nostalgia lane – patrolled by a group of impish schoolmates on bikes.

“Fan Chan changed the perception that kid films couldn’t be successful,” says Chalida Uabumrungjit, project director of the Thai Film Foundation.

Two new kid-focused flicks just hit the big screen. These are Dorm, starring Charlie Trairat, Fan Chan’s male child star, and A Bite of Love, starring the talented Chelermpol Thikampornweerawong, who had a major role in Fan Chan, and Grace Techaratanaprasert.

Could this be the dawn a new age for child stars? Maybe. It depends on the stars. We asked Grace and Charlie about how things have changed since their big breaks, what they want to do when they grow up, and how far they’ll go to squeeze out those crucial tears.

Grace, left, at a screening of ‘Bite of Love.’
Grace Techaratanaprasert

In Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect, she played a kid who befriends a mentally challenged boy; in her latest movie, A Bite of Love, Grace becomes best friends with a pup. But the nine-year-old has been in the news for more than her acting recently. Things got heated after she won the Subanahongsa Award for best actress last week. That’s because her father, Somsak Techaratanaprasert, is the boss of Sahamongkol Film, the country’s biggest movie studio, and president of the Federation of National Film Association of Thailand, which organizers the Subanahongsa Awards. Scandals aside, is Grace worth the award she won? You’ll just have to watch A Bite of Love to find out.

Are you anything like your character in A Bite of Love?

Not really. She doesn’t have many friends and is sad because her mum’s away. But I have a lot of friends and I’m living with my family. I guess the only thing we have in common is that we keep dogs. I have six dogs, and I love them all equally.

What’s the last movie you watched?

Narnia. I loved the big battle scenes. And Lord of the Rings was just as interesting.

What will you be when you grow up?

I’m not sure for now, but maybe a graphic designer. I have my own computer at home that’s loaded with all kinds of software.

What’s good or bad about acting?

I don’t like acting because it feels unnatural. I like it when you feel you don’t have to act.

Had any difficult acting moments?

I don’t like crying, but when I have to, I think of my [deceased] grandparents.

How do you juggle school and acting?

On Friday night, I have to finish my homework very fast. Saturdays and Sundays are my shooting days.

If you could be any action superhero or a cartoon character, who would you be?

Ooh, let me think! [She closes her eyes.] Tweety. She’s cute and she can fly.

How is it growing up in a showbiz family?

I don’t know, I only know that my dad used to come home very tired from work.

The movie has a message about doing something for Bangkok’s many street dogs. What’s your take on this?

Stray dogs are still dogs deep down inside, whether they’ve got skin diseases or not. I still feel for all dogs regardless of how they look.

How did you feel about winning the best actress award?

Sahamongkol won’t let me say anything about the awards. [Her minders usher her away at this point.]

Grace, left, at a screening of ‘Bite of Love.’
Charlie Trairat

Better known by his nickname “Nat,” Charlie was the boy star of Fan Chan, along with his “girlfriend” in the film, Focus Jeerakul, who played a confident kid called Noinah. In Dorm, a horror film, Charlie has a very different role. His character isn’t as cheeky but, then again, the 13-year-old gets to sing. “He was born to be a star,” says Charlie’s half-Dutch father, Fred. Are those just the words of a proud dad, or can we expect great things from Charlie? Given his entirely natural performance in Fan Chan, Dorm might just be worth checking out.

So tell us about your role in Dorm.

My name is Ton and I play a boy who’s moved to another school in the middle of the semester. I’m quiet, since I’m the new boy in school. I don’t have many friends. But my role is more grown up than in Fan Chan, so it’s more fun.

How are you like your character in Dorm?

I’m not really like him. I’m not as quiet in person, I have quite a lot of friends. But I can understand how Ton feels about being thrown into a boarding school suddenly.

How did you prepare for your role?

I didn’t watch other movies or anything like that. But I read the script, and the director helped me prepare for it and gave me directions for when I had to look sad and things like that.

What’s difficult for you to do onscreen?

I have a problem with crying. Maybe I’ll have to have onions for my crying scene. And some scenes I just can’t get it right. There needs to be a lot of cuts until I get it right.

Who’s your favorite actor?

The boy who played Harry Potter – he acts well. And I like a Thai actor called Hugo [Julajak Charapong].

Did your friends treat you differently after Fan Chan?

They would tease me about being Focus’s boyfriend and call me Jaeb, my name in the film.

What were the fun parts in that movie?

The scene in which I get to play in the water.

And when you’re not acting?

I prefer staying at home with my pets. I have a dog and a cat, and some fish. But I like the fish the most.

How were you chosen?

One day the director of Fan Chan just turned up at my school, and asked if anybody wanted to audition. And then he chose me.

Did your family tell you how proud they were after they saw your first film?

Not really. We all went together to watch the film and my mum and dad told me I was good, but my brothers and sisters just teased me.

What’s your favorite subject at school?

Counseling, because you don’t have to study for it. And I like physical education, because you don’t have homework for that.

What will you be when you grow up?

A pilot. But not any old pilot. I want to fly single-engine planes. Or maybe I’ll be a motorbike racer. And if I go to university I’ll take an acting course, but I’ll still want to be a pilot in the end.

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