Thai actor Vithaya “Pu” Pansringarm took up acting four years ago and has already co-starred with Ryan Gosling in Nicolas Winding Refn’s, “Only God Forgives.” Pansringarm played corrupt policeman Chang, a man who thought he was God. In an upcoming movie, he plays the last executioner in Thailand who used a machine gun to kill. It’s based on a memoir written by Chavoret Jaruboon, a man who executed 55 prisoners.
Q: What can you tell me about Chavoret: The Last Executioner?
Vithaya Pansringarm: We begin shooting that next month. Like my character Chang in “Only God Forgives” didn’t act out of hate or anger, just out of a sense of responsibility, it’s the same with the executioner.
Do you like to watch violent movies?
No, I try to avoid watching violence. I don’t even like to read violent news. Violence is in our nature and people are going to fight each other, but I like the philosophy behind martial arts. You practice your violent instincts in a more positive way, so as not to become a violent person in life.
Do you study martial arts?
Yes, I am a fifth-degree black belt in kendo — Japanese fencing. We hit each other like Darth Vader, but afterward we put down our swords and go out for a drink together.
Do you do any special training for movies?
I joined a gym eight and a half months before shooting “Only God Forgives.” I had to train and lose weight. I am a kind of heavyset guy. [Laughs] With the training I dropped 20 kilograms [44 pounds].
What type of director is Nicolas Winding Refn?
He was very open. For example, in preproduction the script was totally different. Originally one scene was supposed to be boxing, but when Nicolas learned about my background in fencing he changed the scene to a sword fight.
How was it working with Ryan Gosling?
He’s so cool, easy going, outgoing, friendly. He has very creative ideas and makes people feel comfortable. We both got kicked a lot in the fighting scene and he handled that well; he was a good sport.
Did you hit it off right away?
The first day I met Ryan was in Thailand. He sat next to me. He’s very quiet. At one point, he looked like he was sleeping. I thought maybe he had jet lag. I was quiet, too, because I didn’t know what to say. The first time he spoke to me he said, “I heard you make very good pad thai fried noodles.” [Laughs] I said, “The only way to find out is to come to my house and eat my pad thai fried noodles.” That was really all we said and then he came to my home and sat with my wife and my son and learned how to make the noodles. When my son first came in it was like, “Pssst. What is Ryan Gosling doing in my living room?” It was great.
Can you explain a Thai blessing before filming?
With certain production companies in Thailand we do a blessing before we work on a film. We often have a Hindu ceremony before shooting. It is to kick off the project in a positive way so that it can go well. We chant and thank Ganesha, the elephant, who is the God of art. Nicolas, Ryan, and me dressed in white and did a Hindu ceremony to bless the movie. There was an offering with flowers and incense.
Do you read reviews?
Yes, with reviews of “Only God Forgives,” people either love it or hate it, but it gets a big reaction. I have received so many messages on my fan page and I’m touched by that.
Do you do your own Facebook or hire someone?
I do my own social media. For me, if someone goes to see me in a movie, I want to respect them. I enjoy reading people’s reactions. Sometimes they entirely believe that I am a character I played. They love you or hate you. You must learn to accept the comments whether they are good or bad. In Thailand we have a story: there is a beautiful Buddha statue that everyone can come and view. A man comes along and says, “That is a beautiful statue — but his ears are too long.” It means people can find something wrong even in the most beautiful things.