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Interview: Actress Yayaying Rhatha Phongam Talks ‘Only God Forgives’

Cinema Chords recently caught up with Thai actress and pop star Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, one of the leading ladies in Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest Only God Forgivesreuniting the Danish director with Mr. Ryan Gosling following their dexterous collaboration in Drive. This being Yayaying’s first feature film, she told us of the new challenges she faced during filming and how Only God Forgives is another love-it-or-hate-it flick.

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How did you get involved with Only God Forgives?

Although it seems like the norm now, at the time this process was very new and foreign to me. There were auditions held by a casting director in Thailand who knew me and I went in to read for them. After getting a call back I met with Nicholas and the rest is history.

Can you tell us a bit about the character you play in the film?

I play a Thai prostitute who is the love interest for Ryan Gosling‘s character in the film. She has a strong singing background like myself and although she is a prostitute she’s one of the few characters who holds a lot of dignity and self-respect.

What attracted you to the role?

Many things attracted me to the role – I really think she is different from the standard prostitute role you see in most movies, but really it was the cast and crew working on the film.

tumblr_mn3qumkaBa1s0rg2oo1_500What was it like working with Nicolas Winding Refn? Had you seen any of his previous work?

I saw Drive when it came out so I had seen his work before, but working with him was really a dream come true. He taught me so many things as this was my first film.

Did you face any challenges on-set?

Well, we acted out a lot of moments where we were just silent and staring at each other and that was a bit difficult as you’re not sure how many silent stares you can possibly give.

Ryan Gosling is probably one of the most popular actors at the moment. What was it like working with him?

He is incredibly down-to-earth and comforting to work with and of course very easy on the eyes.

Only God Forgives, so far, has been receiving some very mixed reviews, did you expect this?

I think when you sign up to do one of Nicolas’ movies you have to go in expecting to have some people love it and some people hate it. They are never for everyone.

But will Nicolas Winding Refn fans be disappointed?

His fans will definitely not be disappointed. Interestingly enough he actually wrote this film before Drive so this project has been in the works for a long time.

What are your favourite characters to play?

I like to play characters that are a bit challenging – and challenge can come from anywhere. For me it was challenging on set to remain quiet and not say many words especially when Kristin Scott Thomas was yelling and degrading me. I had to remember that my character was really in love and she was willing to put herself in certain situations.

If you had to choose between singing and acting, which would you choose and why?

I would choose acting. Singing is something I love and that will always be with me but I am focusing on acting in this chapter of my life.

What are you currently working on, film wise? What are your future plans?

Apart from Only God Forgives I have already shot five films in Thailand, one being The Protector 2, with Thai actor star Tony Jaa where I play a Thai kick-boxing killer.

Only God Forgives gets its UK release in August 2nd and if Yayaying is correct, Nicolas Winding Refn fans will not be disappointed.

We’ll leave you with the trailer for a taste of what’s to come.

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Jessy Williams

The author Jessy Williams

[Associate Features Editor] Film Studies Grad, constant procrastinator and horror aficionado. Tweeting endlessly as @JessyCritical.