Chapter 8: Twenty-One Million and Counting

I first met Shrimp in 1972. He remains a humorous and sometimes self-aggrandizing urban socialite – a self-made legend, with a somewhat fluid morality. Shrimp is a survivor, a successful photographer, with a talent for convincing other people to invest in him, sometimes to their disappointment. At one point he had bodyguards provided by Thai's, to whom he owed large sums, protecting him from some other Thai's who wanted to kill him, because of his loose use of their trust, and money.

Granted, filming The Deerhunter in Thailand was a traumatic experience for Mike Cimino. He was a perfectionist and already way over budget. It was the most expensive film to date, eventually costing about 22 million dollars. It was the first large scale film produced in Thailand, and the Thais, smiling and piratical, as they are when given the opportunity, milked this chance for all they could. It’s easy to understand his unpleasant attitude in the face of such obstacles.

 The army in particular was troublesome. All military equipment used had to be supplied by the Royal Thai Army. They would invent excuses why helicopters scheduled and paid for, could not be used; border tensions, maintenance problems, etc. But if someone was willing to pay, another ten, or twenty thousand dollars, under the table, things could be arranged. I think he was smart enough not to curse them directly as he often did his crew. It may have cost him his life.

 Despite the delays, trauma and expense, Michael Cimino somehow, made a great movie. The version I recently downloaded, was missing a few scenes that appeared in the first screening shown in Bangkok. Perhaps due to its length, it is long, about three hours, and because the segments shot in Thailand were of a more-or-less metaphorical nature, some Asian footage was cut for the final release.

 The Deerhunter was essentially a movie about America, unlike Apocalypse Now, which could accurately be called a Vietnam War film. Barry incidentally, came to Thailand to work with The Deerhunter, directly after the final wrap of Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic film, Apocalypse Now, shot in the Philippines. He worked on Apocalypse in charge of the river patrol boats, photographic double for Fred Forrest, and 2nd AD.

After the completion of The Deerhunter, Barry remained in Thailand, ran a bar, became a DJ in Pattaya, married a local lass who brought him flowers, then last heard, had sailed off into the night on a Thai fishing boat for some months to transport some product, eventually re-appearing in Singapore and creating Speakeasy, the country’s first digital recording studio.

Me, I stayed in Thailand and worked with a few other film productions, but none as memorable as The Deerhunter.