Anna and the King Won't Play in Thailand, Censors Say

Film fans in Thailand won't get a chance to see Anna and the King in theaters. Censors in that country have banned the Jodie Foster film because of what they call its "disrespect" toward Thai nobility. The film was released worldwide a few weeks ago.

"The filmmakers have made King Mongkut look like a cowboy who rides on the back of an elephant," said censorship board member Thepmontri Limpayom. "The film on Anna and the King has several scenes that distort history and insult the king," said board chairman Police Major-General Prakat Sataman. "Most members of the censorship board ruled to ban it." The film stars Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat as King Mongkut, also known as Rama IV.

Anna and the King is based on two books by Victorian English teacher Anna Leonowens, who was employed to teach the king's children. Like most writers, Leonowens was known to embellish her material to make it more entertaining. The 20th Century Fox release is suffering the same fate as its 1956 musical predecessor, The King and I, which starred Yul Brynner as the King—a role he became permanently identified with—and Deborah Kerr as Anna. The King and I also wasn’t shown legally in Thailand, a country with strict laws regarding insults to the royal family.

The issue was so serious to Thai officials that they refused filmmakers permission to make the movie in Thai territory. Instead, it was shot in Malaysia. The studio has 15 days to appeal the decision, but the chances of overturning it are slight. One board member said that for Anna and the King to win approval, it would have to be cut to 20 minutes.