Name: Nicharee “Jeeja” Yanin (Yanin Vismitananda)
Date of Birth: 31 March, 1984
Birth sign: Aries
Height: 5′ 3¾” (1.62 m)
Weight: 94.6lbs (43 kg)
Country: Bangkok, Thailand
Scene from The Kick
- Taekwondo (3rd Dan Black Belt)
- Muay Thai
- Thai Boxing
- Kung Fu
- Jackie Chan
- Tony Jaa – “He came to see me sometimes, and taught me martial arts tricks. He is very friendly; I admire his perseverance and dedication.”
JEEJA ON TRAINING
- “I dropped out of school for four years: two years for training and two more years for shooting.”
- “Even though I practice taekwondo, I still had to learn muay thai, gymnastics and how to use weapons.”
- “I combine dancing, martial arts and “Merai Yuth” which is martial arts positioned in a fake drunken state (the same concept as drunken fist).”
- “I had to assume the characteristics of popular action heroes. For example, I watched Bruce Lee movies all day to prepare for the ice factory scene (which was a tribute to the Bruce Lee film The Big Boss).”
- “I tried to incorporate a gracefulness into Muay Thai, samurai sword fighting, and gymnastics. Female action stars are distinguished by their acrobatics and delicateness.”
Scene from Raging Phoenix
JEEJA’S DEDICATION AND DISCOVERY
Jeeja was a weak child, prone to illness and spending long bouts of sickness in hospital. At 11 years old, Jeeja’s mother encouraged her to take up taekwondo to help build up her strength, and instil confidence in herself, which she avidly took up with her four cousins; by the time she was 14 she had earned her black belt. Her skill at taekwondo, combined with her formal ballet training, helped her win an award for choreography at the 1999 Thailand Taekwondo Championships, leading her to say “I like taekwondo. It makes me feel free – free to run around, free to move. Most importantly, it makes me feel that women are just as capable as men.”
At 17 Jeeja’s father died and the family struggled to make ends meet, even with Jeeja’s income as a taekwondo teacher.
Trailer for Chocolate
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A chance conversation with Master Na, a friend and martial arts teacher, led to her auditioning for Born to Fight (2004), a film by director and martial arts choreographer Panna Rittikrai. Although told she was no longer needed on the first day of filming, unbeknownst to her, the wheels of fate had starting turning: “I was very disappointed. But later I found out that Panna saw something in me…”
A week later she was invited to make a demo for Panna, who in turn passed it on to acclaimed Thai director Prachya Pinkaew (Chocolate, Ong Bak, Tom Yum Goong 1 & 2). She made an instant impression on him with her fighting skills, and when he was asked whether he knew a female lead that could star in an action film, he immediately thought of Jeeja and came up with a script just for her. The result: Chocolate; a film that cements Jeeja’s status as a versatile, talented fighter.
THE FUTURE FOR JEEJA
After success with Chocolate, Jeeja Yanin’s graceful, acrobatic but realistic fights have seen her crowned the queen of Thai action films, and with her subsequent films Jeeja is looking to expand her horizons by continuing to work with the best martial arts directors in Thailand and farther afield.
Raging Phoenix (2009) and The Kick (2011) increased her profile and it was during filming of Tom Yum Goong 2 (2013) that she discovered she was pregnant. Whilst this is good news for her, for martial arts fans it means a wait of almost two years before we get to see Chocolate 2, which is sitting on the shelf. “I’ll have to spend some time getting fit enough for it. Plus I had a caesarean, so I have to be extra careful with an action film,” she says.
Jeeja is well-received in the Far East, being favourably compared to Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi so it is surely only a matter of time before her talents are on display in a major Hollywood blockbuster! Whilst her physical stature may be diminutive, she is genuinely very tough and can take some serious hits as well as dish them out. She has a promising future ahead let’s see what she comes out with next!
- She is the first woman in 20 years to star in a leading role in a Thai martial arts film.
- She has been studying Taekwondo since she was 11.
- During filming she does all her own stunts and outtakes at the end of the films show how serious some of the injuries she sustains are. She says, “I had to perform at the height of 50 feet without safety equipment and minimal standing space. It was scary. But I had to endure it. I had to get used to it.”
- For her role in Chocolate, she had to observe autistic kids at a centre, watch films like Rain Man and Forest Gump, and study medical cases for up to 6 months.
Be happy with the things you do; you can be discouraged, but don’t give up.
Trailer for The Kick
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|2008||Chocolate||Zen - autistic daughter|
|2009||Raging Phoenix||Duae - lovelorn teenager|
|2011||Jakkalan||Jakkalan - smuggler|
|2013||Tom Yum Goong 2||Ping Ping|