The most recent of several movies about Anna Leonowens
and King Mongkut
, Anna and the King
was released in 1999. Starring Jodie Foster
as Anna and Chow Yun-Fat
as the King, it tells a similar story to the one told in Rodgers & Hammerstein
's renowned The King and I
but portrays Anna as a governess
rather than a schoolteacher
, and suggests that she was romantically involved
with the Siamese monarch.
When the movie was released, the government of Thailand banned it from the country, citing gross historical inaccuracies. Pirated copies immediately became available, and the film was also sold in surrounding countries. One official indicated that people could watch what they liked in the privacy of their homes, but the police enforced the ban by threatening to prosecute not only those selling the movie but anyone who owned it as well.
The government gave several reasons for banning the movie. First and foremost was that despite Twentieth Century Fox's claim that the film was "based on historical information and ... published works," only the names of characters resembled anything that had actually occurred. (In fact, Fox's website claimed the movie was a "true story" until Thai students pointed out that this was false.) The government also listed several offensive changes to historical fact. Mongkut (also called Rama IV) was portrayed in the movie as young, temperamental, irrational, and easily influenced by Anna. In actuality, he was nearly sixty years old when she arrived in Siam, already quite respected and sensible, and so oblivious to her presence that his extensive diaries only mentioned her once in five years - to call her "nosy." In addition, Prince Chulalongkorn (also called Rama V) was depicted as arrogant and spoiled, and only ruled successfully because of Anna's influence. Instead, Chulalongkorn had been well-respected since before Anna's arrival, and learned so little from her that his study of the English language had to be continued during the first few years of his reign.
Anna and the King was directed by Andy Tennant. In addition to Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat, it starred Bai Ling as Tuptim, Syed Alwi as the Kralahome, Keith Chin as Chulalongkorn, and Tom Felton as Anna's son Louis. It received a PG-13 rating in the United States for "some intense violent sequences," and ran for 148 minutes.
Other movies telling this story include the 1946 movie Anna and the King of Siam (starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne), the famous 1956 musical The King and I (starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr), and a 1999 animated version, also called The King and I (produced by Warner Brothers).