In 1985, Cambodian Haing S Ngor became the first Asian to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the iconic The Killing Fields.
Twenty four years ago, on a rainy February night on the edge of Los Angeles’ Chinatown, Dr Haing S Ngor, a Cambodian physician, parked his Mercedes in a dank, dark, graffiti-daubed alley. Down that end of town, at least, such a car seemed out of place.
A friend of mine was working with the producer David Puttnam who’d had great success with Chariots of fire – and was a big bull in the industry by this point. That friend handed him the novel version of Withnail & I, that I wrote before the screenplay.
For a time, I may have been.
Absolutely nothing. I was like your average American looking at a map, saying «Is this En-ger-land?» whilst pointing at fucking Iraq.
Presumably you went to Cambodia as part of your research?
I did, yes, but I was there for about 20 minutes I went to Thailand, where they eventually filmed most of the movie.
But did you ever get to Cambodia?
We crossed the rickety bridge into Cambodia. On the other side there was this little Khmer kid sitting there holding a Kalashnikov, wearing a red scarf [a Krama as worn by Rouge soldiers] I’m thinking, “Fuck me, this kid could put me in the ditch right now”
This article was written by Jonnie Bayfield
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