10 Curiosities You Don’t Know About the Movie “The Beach”

The controversial but commercially successful film The Beach, directed by Danny Boyle, was much anticipated by movie lovers in the year 2000 especially when it became apparent that Leonardo DiCarpio will be starring in it.  Leonardo had just won the hearts of many teens with his stellar performance in The Titanic, and so there were a lot of expectations from the movie, The Beach.

Koh Phi Phi Islands were less known to the world until the release of film.  Despite the controversies associated with The Beach, it helped put Thailand on the map in terms of world tourism and travel. Here we look at the 10 curiosities about the movie “The Beach”.

  1. The Main Character

The film, The Beach is based on the novel of the same name published in 1996 by Alex Garland. Richard, the main character in the novel, is English.  Ewan McGregor was drafted by Danny Boyle as his first choice to cast as Richard.  However, it was speculated that the Fox Studio offered to give Boyle additional funding under the condition that Richard’s character be made American and DiCarpio be cast instead.  McGregor later blamed the studio and felt he was betrayed at the time by Boyle.


Ewan McGregor, Star Wars and Leonardo DiCaprio, The Beach

  1. The Boating Accident

One day when the cast and crew were busy filming, real-life drama unfolded when their boat got involved in an accident endangering their lives. It was reported that the incident involved both DiCarpio and Boyle but neither of them go injured.

  1. The Mountains

There is a significant difference between the beach seen in the film and the one in real life. On the actual beach in Thailand, there’s a large gap between the mountains. In the film, The Beach seems secluded because special effects were used to digitally add some of the surrounding mountains in post-production, creating a beautiful lagoon that’s enclosed in between.


  1. The Waterfall Scene

In the film, there’s a scene where DiCarpio and others jumps off the waterfall. This scene was actually filmed at the Haew Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park, Central Thailand. The real-life Phi Phi Leh or Maya bay has no such waterfall.

  1. The Look of the Jungle Scenes and the Map

According to Danny Boyle, the recreation of the look of the jungle scenes in the film was inspired by the Banjo-Kanzooie game developed by the Rare/ Nintendo Ltd. The map that Daffy gives to Richard in the film was illustrated by Alex Garland, the author of the book that The Beach is based upon. He is credited for this as the cartographer.


  1. The Controversy about Damage to Filming Location

Not only was Koh Phi Phi Lee chosen as the best filming location for its astounding natural beauty, but because it also offered potential for a landscape rethink. This led to a controversy arising when 20th Century Fox bulldozed and landscaped the natural beach setting of Koh Phi Phi Lee to make it more “paradise-like”. The production cleared some grass and palm trees and altering some sand dunes in order to widen the beach. Even though Fox set aside funds to reconstruct and return the beach to its natural state, it never came around to it as environmentalists who believed the ecosystem had been damaged permanently and all restoration attempts had failed, filed lawsuits against Fox.  After the filmmakers left the island, the real damage became clear when the entire area remained destroyed and an artificially-created flat land with odd layout of trees at one end of the beach was never rectified until the Tsunami of 2004.



  1. The Tsunami of 2004

Two of the beaches where The Beach was filmed, Kho Phi Phi Leh and Phuket, were affected by the Indian Ocean Tsunami that occurred on 26 December 2004. Over 230000 people lost their lives when massive waves hit the coast the Indian Ocean. However, in a fitting twist, the Tsunami of 2004 helped reshape the beach to its natural state following the damage the filmmakers had left at the beach.

  1. Phi Phi Leh

The Phi Phi Islands are made up of two islands, the Phi Phi Leh and the Phi Phi Don. The Phi Phi Leh is the smaller island and it’s not inhabited as it is a national park while Phi Phi Don is the larger island densely occupied with hotels, beach front bars and beach-goers. The movie, The Beach was mostly filmed in Maya Bay on the beaches of Phi Phi Leh.


  1. Phuket

A six hour drive from Bankok and a two hour boat ride from the Koh Phi Phi Islands will take you to one of the film locations-Phuket.  It is here at Phuket that you find the “On On Hotel”- the hotel in which Richard is staying at when the movie opens. The On On Hotel was recently renovated to a luxury hotel with backpacker dorms, and is now called “The Memory at On On”.


  1. The Controversy about Portrayal of Thailand

The film premiered in Thailand in 2000 but was not greeted with much enthusiasm as some Thai politicians were outraged by the way Thailand was portrayed in the film. The film depicted a drug culture which was thought to give Thailand a bad image. Consequently, having a statue of Budha in a bar was seen as blasphemous by the Thai politicians. They eventually called for the film to be banned.

The Beach  is quite entertaining and engrossing movie filmed in Thailand. The film inspired many people to get out and travel, with many travelers choosing Koh Phi Phi Island as the perfect beach holiday destination. Have you watched the movie, The Beach? What are your thoughts about your ideal beach vacation?

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