Background information on the Falcon of the East
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This summary document outlines the story to be made into a feature film, based on a true event, of Constantine Phaulkon, known as the Falcon, the 17th century Greek adventurer who rose from cabin boy in the Mediterranean to become Prime Minister of the Oriental Kingdom of Siam.
Siam, fabled land of lavish courts, rich and exotic traditions and dazzling wealth. Siam, a worldly Eden, where innocent sensuality and exquisite power games co-existed in ancient harmony. Siam, an age-old Kingdom forced in the final years of the 17th century to emerge from its isolation, as its surface was crisscrossed by foreign adventurers, Western intruders seized with lust for wealth and empire. Into this fabulous world of intrigue strode Constantine Phaulkon, trader, smuggler, cavalier and rogue.
Constantine Phaulkon, just thirty years old, is on all fours behind the Barcalon - Siam's Prime Minister - climbing the steps that lead to the resplendent royal audience chamber of the Palace at Ayudhya, Siam's thriving capital.
As he crawls up the steps, he reflects on the extraordinary fate that led him here. In flashback we see a frightened and abused child escaping from his Greek Island home and stowing away on an English merchant ship, captained by the charismatic and unorthodox trader George White, who adopts him and takes him on his trading missions for the East India Company. In 1680 they are in Java where the powerful Dutch are extending their empire.
In Siam, the canny Barcalon, fearful of Dutch colonial ambitions over his own country, and mindful of the cut-throat rivalry between England and Holland, invites George White to open an East India Company branch in Siam as a buffer to Dutch expansion. White is thrilled he has Phaulkon, who already speaks a dozen languages, including Siamese for this new mission.
But at East India Company headquarters in Madras, Governor Yale (the same who later founded Yale University) insists that the expenditure of a new branch necessitates approval from London and overrules White.
Aware that this will entail years of correspondence, White and Phaulkon are loath to lose the opportunity of a lifetime to lay their hands on the untouched riches of exotic Siam. They decide to go it alone, risking a court-martial in England and certain death in Siam if they are found out not to be official.
The Dutch in Java get wind of White's plan and murder him just as he and Phaulkon are about to sail. A distraught Phaulkon vows to avenge his beloved mentor and to carry on his mission despite Dutch threats to kill him if he does.
Phaulkon sets sail in the dead of night, survives a mutiny sponsored by the Dutch but is shipwrecked off southern Siam and caught smuggling cannon to finance his mission. The ministrations of a beautiful Siamese woman, Sunida, and the fortuitous discovery of a sacred white elephant near the spot where he was washed ashore save him from a gruesome death by tiger.
Phaulkon's friend and accomplice, Thomas Ivatt, is held hostage while Phaulkon is sent to the Capital, Ayudhya, to furnish proof that the Barcalon did indeed invite him to trade.
Unfortunately, Samuel Potts, an irascible director of the East India Company, arrives from Madras to reveal that Phaulkon's mission is far from official. He orders him to return to Madras to face a court-martial. But the savvy Barcalon, sensing Phaulkon's genius and potential usefulness, tells Potts that Phaulkon must be executed in Siam for his crimes.
The English factory is mysteriously burnt down, and in the flames Phaulkon sees his links with England severed forever. To survive he must now make himself indispensable to the Siamese.
Deftly exploiting the Dutch colonial menace, and quick to understand the challenges and dangers of this multi-layered society, Phaulkon gradually weaves his way into the favors of the all-powerful King Narai, who makes him a Mandarin and appoints him commissioner of Siam's burgeoning foreign trade. The envy of every Siamese courtier is now aroused.
Hearing of an imminent Dutch invasion, and aware that Siamese war elephants will be no match for European cannon, Phaulkon conceives the outrageous plan of forging a phony alliance with Europe's most formidable monarch, Louis XIV of France, in order to deter the Dutch. He proposes a deal to the local French Jesuits; if they will agree to forge this treaty, he will use his prestige at the Court of King Narai to convert the Buddhist monarch to Catholicism.
The Jesuits are sorely tempted - this is their long-held dream - but they insist that Phaulkon must himself convert as proof of his sincerity and marry their protégé, the beautiful Catholic Eurasian, Maria.
Phaulkon is now torn between the political advantages of a union with Maria and his passion for Sunida who has been sent from the south to spy on him. At the same time all his guile is needed to confront the various factions that conspire against him: the Dutch who are preparing to invade Siam, the English who want him hanged, and the jealous Siamese courtiers who rally behind their demonic leader, Sorasak, the King's natural son.
At this critical point the Barcalon dies, the King falls ill, and Phaulkon is left to face his enemies alone. The Dutch invade, and the former Greek cabin boy is now all that stands between his adopted country's freedom and the shackles of colonialism...
The Falcon of the East
"The Falcon of Siam" is the first novel in a published trilogy that has met with great international success. “The Falcon Takes Flight” and “The Falcon’s Last Flight” tell of further travails of Constantine Gerakis in Siam (Thailand). The first two novels have already been translated into French, German, Greek and Spanish.
In March of 2004, the first new pressing in eleven years of “The Falcon of Siam” was published by Falcon Press, established by James Withand who painstakingly type set and prepared, printed and published the most recent edition of the book, word by word from earlier publications. Today, the book is being sold in Thailand and a few selected bookshops throughout the world.
Here’s a snapshot:
“This is the stuff of which epic films are made ...” Irish Times
“Rich evocations of the landscape” Sunday Times
“Brings alive the turbulent world of the seventeenth century ... action packed and full of exotic imagery” Oracle
“A thoroughly enjoyable adventure story. It is also the most successful fictional treatment of Thailand by a foreigner yet published” Bangkok Post
“An exciting, sweeping, bejeweled tale.” Sunday Telegraph
“As thrilling as any Spielberg swashbuckler. There is only one worry: that the word “END” must eventually appear.” Elle Magazine
“A vast panorama with just the right mix of history, adventure, exoticism... and eroticism.” Lire
Writing of a screenplay was originally begun in collaboration between the novel’s author, Axel Aylwen, and Stirling Silliphant, the acclaimed multi award-winning screenwriter who studied martial arts with Bruce Leeduring the late 1960s, and who also lived in Thailand for the last years of his life and an avid fan of the story.
The untimely death of Mr. Silliphant in 1997 put the project temporarily on hold. However, Mr. Aylwen continued with attempts to develop the screenplay over the ensuing years, sporadically pursuing working relationships with other writers and producers.
Meeting James With in the 1990’s and then later forming a contractual collaboration has produced a project of great considered value, based on significant historical research.
The screenplay has since been developed into one of great epic grandeur, passing through numerous revisions along the way, carefully overseen and thoroughly researched.
In the early 1990’s, upon reading the novel and meeting with Mr. Aylwen, James With, Chairman of Tri-Us Entertainmentlearned that the novel’s original publisher had closed returning the book rights to Mr. Aylwen. James With has worked in collaboration with Axel Aylwen, both in promoting the story and carefully preparing the ground to introduce and produce this screenplay as a major motion picture destined for worldwide theatrical release.
With Axel Aylwen’s willingness and commitment in collaboration with James With, the screenplay was developed and presented to some of the leading Hollywood Studio executives. in the early 2000’s. At the time, the great success of Gladiatorhad reignited an interest in the epic historical movie genre piece.
Tri-Us Entertainment presented an earlier version of the screenplay during the inaugural Bangkok International Film Market in January 2004 and negotiated a long-term rights agreement to the project and property with Mr. Aylwen. The screenplay has captured the attention of one of Hollywood’s leading talent agencies, and the producer is now seeking to attach that magic mix of expertise and talent. However in the late 2000’s, Mr. Aylwen’s health became frail and slowed development work for the project, and Hollywood studios moved more towards the action, adventure, science-fiction genre, Marvel Comics stories creating hits including Iron Man, The Avengers, and Thor.
Financing the film as an Asian lead co-production designed for a grand world-wide theatrical release is a central focus and theme. James With has continued prodigiously and directed the project’s development for nearly two decades, during which time the world of motion picture production has gone through some radical technological changes, giving rise to great strides in Asian cross-border co-production collaboration.
With this project, Tri-Us Entertainment (www.tri-usentertainment.com) spear-headed the drive to develop Thailand’s film industry and an international co-production treaty, bringing like-minded visionaries and well-matched strengths to the project. Developing a strong local film industry, the Thailand Government and private sector corporate bodies are being sources and combined to assist in producing this epic as a grand scale franchise motion picture production.
“The Falcon of Siam” is an adventure story in the epic tradition that begs to be realized as the first film in a series of feature length motion pictures. It is the story of one man who, three hundred years ago, changed the course of history in a foreign country and a vastly contrasting culture thousands of miles from his birthplace and homeland of Greece - a man driven by relentless ambition in his passion to fulfil the dreams of his murdered mentor. Finally, it is a story of the struggle for independence from colonial rule.
This is a story about the uncanny rapport and mutual respect which developed between Phaulkon and the King Narai of Siam, given that they were two beings of such wholly different worlds. And it is a story that portrays Phaulkon's love of two women, one a Portuguese Catholic and the other a Siamese Buddhist, which serves to highlight the cultural and philosophical contrasts of East and West - contrasts of outlook which are as relevant in the world today as they were back in Phaulkon’s 17thcentury Siam.
In the light of Asia's recent emergence onto the world cinema stage, the telling of this story in film is timely, and is not only topical but should prove to be a major cinematic cultural event, of interest both to Asian and Western audiences.
Befitting the screenplay’s solid development of characters, is the producer’s vision to deliver a series of parts that actors can’t resist, in particular the lead role of Falcon - a character both strong and gentle, witty and impatient, charming and quick-tempered - captivating all who come before him. A man who arouses love, loyalty, anger and jealousy, and whom we will see evolve from an abused, vulnerable child into the all-powerful Barcalon (Prime Minister) of Siam. The lead character is intended to attract an actor of international repute, such as Johnny Depp, Daniel Day Lewis, or Rufus Sewell.
The producers are currently meeting with distinguished financing entities, world renowned directors, talent agencies and talent, whilst simultaneously seeking to arouse the interest of a major Hollywood studio to become involved in the project.
International distinction and merit for the actresses who will play the key characters of Sunida and Maria is also an important undertaking. Both of these women, raised in aristocratic households, but in diametrically juxtaposed cultures, are by no means stereotypes of the seventeenth century. They are highly educated, amusing and strong willed, searching for independence in a society that frowns upon it. Only their passion for Phaulkon unites them.
The budget for "The Falcon of Siam" is foreseen as a high, epic franchise level film, however as much of the shooting is planned to take place in the Kingdom of Thailand, it is strongly believed to be considerably lower than such classic epics and franchise blockbusters as “Ghandi”, “The Last Emperor”, "Braveheart", “Titanic”, or Peter Jackson’s epic motion pictures based on J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” intellectual properties. Technology and innovation have helped immensely to lower production costs for such an important historical storytelling.
It is envisaged that the scope and scale of this production will enable it to stand alongside those other great productions, both critically and at the box office. Now is the time for this great epic to be made.
This project is a TRI-US ENTERTAINMENTproduction and the production company contact can be made via Trius Global Media.