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Hollywood is finally fixing that ruined Thai beach from ‘The Beach’

The Leonardo DiCaprio movie is still causing grief at Thailand’s Maya Bay

Jon Hornbuckle
Written by
Jon Hornbuckle

Life’s a major beach for the studio behind Leonardo DiCaprio backpacker thriller ‘The Beach’, after the Thai court ordered 20th Century Studios to pay after the location they used was left damaged during filming.

Fresh from the enormous success of Titanic, DiCaprio starred in the adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel as Richard, an American backpacker who seeks adventure in Thailand but finds that paradise is far from perfect.

Filming by then-studio 20th Century Fox took place in Maya Bay on the Thai island of Phi Phi Lay. The crew infamously planted dozens of coconut trees to give a more ‘tropical’ feel to the location, and accusations of environmental damage flew around even before the Danny Boyle movie had wrapped.

The uprooting of plants on neighbouring sand dunes turned out to be particularly detrimental to the ecosystem, as their roots were helping keep the 250-metre beach’s sand in place. Once the film crew ripped them out, the sand began to erode into the ocean.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach
20th Century StudiosLeonardo DiCaprio in The Beach

At the time, The Guardian quoted locals describing Maya Bay as a ‘forlorn scene of ugly bamboo fences and dead native plants’.

Thailand’s Supreme Court has now ordered 20th Century Studios to pay a sum of 10 million Thai Baht (£235,826) to restore the location.

Speaking in 1999 while the movie was on location, DiCaprio defended the crew’s actions: ‘From what I see everything is okay. I have seen nothing that had been damaged in any way. I’ve seen Fox taking meticulous care, and their respect for the island,’ he said. ‘I consider myself an environmentalist. I believe that whenever we leave the island, it is going to be better off than it was before.’

Maya Bay reopened to tourists in January 2022, after it was closed for three years to carry out essential restoration works. The idyllic location was shut off to visitors once again in August and isn’t expected to reopen until October at the earliest.

When Maya Bay reopens it’s expected that previously enforced protocols will return. These included a ban on boats, swimming and a rule that no visitor could stay for longer than an hour.

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