When Thailand’s famous Maya Beach closed to visitors “indefinitely” in 2018 due to a serious threat of destruction of nature, many looked with reproach at the studio 20th Century Fox and its film “The Beach”.
Danny Boyle’s film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, about a young tourist who accidentally finds himself in the tropical paradise of a secluded beach with a small utopian group of people who inhabit it, brought huge attention to the Maya and brought millions of tourists for the last over 20 years.
Now, 24 years after the film began shooting, a court in Thailand has decided to condemn the two production studios involved in the filming of “The Beach” as well as several high-ranking civil servants in the country’s then-government for the negative environmental footprint that the production has had on nature there.
Piles of tourists have caused local authorities to worry about the danger of erosion on Maya Beach.
According to experts, the very photos of Maya beach have led to a number of consequences for the local nature – numerous plants have been uprooted, various plant species have disappeared from the local flora, and to top it all, the strong human presence has accelerated the destruction of the beach itself.
The Thai court case was filed by local authorities and environmental groups back in 1999 against 20th Century Fox and the local Thai company hired for the production to provide filming grounds. According to the indictment, by their actions, the film crews transformed the area to have a more cinematic look.
The plaintiffs are demanding that Thai authorities impose a fine of 100 million baht (over $2.7 million). The Supreme Court of Thailand has now decided to move forward with the fine and fine the companies.
It is interesting in this case who will pay this fine, since the 20th Century Fox studio is currently owned by Disney, and from there they even changed its name to 20th Television. This point has yet to be clarified.
Back in 1998, the production team paid the Royal Thai Forestry Department the sum of 4 million baht (about $100,000) to film on Maya Beach.
Once the production is located there, however, crew members begin making drastic changes to the scenery to make it look in a way that meets the crew’s aesthetic requirements for a “paradise beach.”
According to the filmmakers, palm trees on the beach were necessary for the right atmosphere, which Maya does not have.
Many natural bushes were uprooted that surrounded the beach and helped to keep the sand there and not be pulled out to sea, thus increasing erosion.
The bushes have been replaced by dozens of palm trees that previously had no place on the beach.
At the time, DiCaprio, who was still asserting his environmental values, tried to appease critics by saying that the island and the location itself would be better off than before production once filming was done.
“From what I can see, everything is fine. I didn’t see anything that was damaged in any way,” the actor stated at the time.
In truth, the film crew tries to return the beach to its original state after the filming ends – the palm trees are removed and the natural bushes are returned in their place. The team even put up bamboo fences along the beach to contain the sand and prevent it from being washed out to sea.
However, witnesses quoted by Britain’s “Guardian” described the beach after filming as a “deserted scene with ugly bamboo fences and dead native plants.”
The problem only worsened in the following years. The hordes of tourists inspired by the movie are starting to turn Maya into a “Hollywood tourism” destination to try and touch their favorite star.
The place itself has long retained its attractive appearance and attracts a huge flow of thousands of tourists per day, loudly advertised as “the most beautiful beach in the world”.
Maya continues to be a really attractive place, and the definition “The most beautiful beach in the world” is not far from the truth.
On some of the busiest days, up to 5,000 people arrive, and with that, along with all the intentional and unintentional trash that foreigners leave behind, the place begins to corrode.
This led to the decision of the Thai authorities in 2018 to close the entire island and draw up a plan for its rehabilitation. This required reinforcing the vegetation that holds the sand, clearing the seawater of trash and overall stabilizing the local flora.
In January of this year, the beach reopened to tourists, but with a limit on the number of visitors allowed and with a strict schedule of visiting hours.
While this regime eased the human impact and allowed locals involved in tourism to recover some of their income that had been suspended for the past three years, a new closure was imposed just months later.
At the beginning of May, the local authorities closed Maya beach again, and the official reason for this was the need to protect the still fragile nature.
The fate of the Thai island that hosted the production of “The Beach” remains one of the starkest examples of how overtourism is becoming a serious problem for some of the world’s most beautiful natural landmarks.
As for the film itself, it never managed to become a real hit, and the critics received it rather coldly back in 2000. Rotten Toamtoes has a critics rating of just 21% while viewers give it a 57%.
To this day, it is considered to be one of Danny Boyle’s weakest films.