Theatergoers in the year 2000 were transfixed by The Beach, a movie about a young traveler who discovers a hidden tropical paradise. The movie was not a great box office success, but viewers loved the beautiful beach in Thailand where the movie was shot. However, this love has resulted in an environmental crisis for the Thai island—one that 20th Century Fox is just now apologizing for.
‘The Beach’ Crew Damaged Thai Island
The Beach featured stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tilda Swinton, but ultimately failed at the box office, even earning DiCaprio a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for worst actor. The movie might not have resonated with viewers, but its shooting location did.
The movie was filmed on southern Thailand’s Phi Phi Leh Island, but the film crew made a few adjustments before they were ready to start making the movie. The crew uprooted native plants and introduced some alien species, both of which negatively impacted the environment of the island.
DiCaprio, who is now a known environmentalist, told critics of the environmental damage that the island would be left “better off than it was before.” However, efforts to return the beach to its former state—removing alien species, replanting uprooted fauna, setting up bamboo fences to hold sand in place—ultimately failed.
If that wasn’t enough, thousands of The Beach’s fans have journeyed to Phi Phi Leh over the years. All this tourist activity created pollution that destroyed nearby coral reefs. It was estimated that the island was welcoming about 4,000 tourists a day at its peak. In 2018, local officials shut the beach down completely in an effort to reverse some of the damage.
Thailand’s Supreme Court Rules Studios Must Pay
Earlier this week, Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling that stated the Royal Forest Department would continue their rehabilitation work on the island. The court also upheld a 2019 agreement that stated the studios that made the movie—20th Century Fox and Thai film studio Santa International Film Productions—would pay for the cleanup. The rehabilitation project has been estimated to cost 10 million baht, which is about $270,000.
This ruling comes more than 20 years after the first lawsuit was filed, as The Beach was filmed in 1998 and 1999. The first suit was filed in ‘99; local authorities and environmentalists sought 100 million baht in damages.
However, the court didn’t accept this filing until 2012, and the issue hasn’t been officially resolved until now. Many are celebrating the fact that the movie studios will finally pay for the damage they caused and hoping this ruling will discourage others from callously wreaking havoc on native ecosystems.