One year after wrapping up his first big box office hit, Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts likely didn’t expect to find himself embroiled in the kind of bizarre, violent drama you’d expect to see in a gritty action movie. But, according to a new, must-read profile from GQ, that’s exactly the kind of life the 33-year-old director was forced into after surviving a vicious attack in a Vietnamese nightclub and launching his own international manhunt to find his assailants.
The incredibly wild but nonetheless real story goes like this: While shooting Skull Island on location, Vogt-Roberts fell in love with Vietnam. After the movie wrapped, he found himself drawn back to the country, both because of his affection for the culture and the particularly rough and draining experience he’d had in Los Angeles promoting the film. When the Vietnamese government offered him a job as tourism ambassador, he gladly accepted and began spending his nights dining on cheap street food and hanging out in ex-pat bars taking selfies with locals. He was a bit of a celebrity and life was good. Until one night, when things came crashing down in a rowdy nightclub called XOXO:
Here’s what Vogt-Roberts remembers from the night of September 9: It was past midnight, and he had the best table in the club, in front of the DJ booth. He leaned back on his couch with his friends, including stuntman Ilram Choi (Kong’s fight choreographer and Andrew Garfield’s double in two Spider-Man movies) and Vietnamese-American filmmakers Timothy Linh Bui and Danny Do. They looked out at the crowd. At a slightly less good table behind them were approximately ten buff dudes with high-and-tight haircuts and gold chains. Do leaned over to Choi and pointed backward. “See those guys? They’re the real deal.”
Otherwise, it was a normal scene at XOXO. Green lasers bounced off the white funky balls. Lil Jon rattled the subwoofers. Vogt-Roberts’s crew shared champagne and tropical fruit. A man in a hat and a man with a beard harassed two women at Vogt-Roberts’s table, groping them and asking them to leave Vogt-Roberts and join them, but the women shooed them away.
In the early hours of the morning, Choi saw at least ten men looming over Vogt-Roberts, swinging haymakers at his face. While the music continued to play, Vogt-Roberts covered his head and backpedaled into more fists. He fell onto the sofa, and the scrum threw him onto the floor, taking turns kicking him from all sides while he curled into the fetal position. Choi realized, “Jordan is going to die, and no one is going to do anything about it.”
Luckily, as GQ writes, Choi was able to wrestle Vogt-Roberts away from his attackers, but not before one of them smashed a liquor bottle on the director’s forehead, crumpling him to the ground, covered in blood. In the weeks that followed, Vogt-Roberts slowly recovered from his near-death experience, first in a Vietnam hospital then back home in Los Angeles. All the while he attempted to get info on who had attacked him and why, but his friends continued to brush him off, warning him not to pursue this line of inquiry. Undeterred, Vogt-Roberts set out to find these men and bring them to justice, if only to give himself some peace of mind.
After poking around a bit more insistently and flexing his internet sleuthing skills, Vogt-Roberts eventually got a lead. His attackers were most likely a pair of well-known Vietnamese-Canadian drug dealers—Kenny Cuong and Billy Tran—who had a long history of trouble in Vancouver before fleeing to Saigon, where they would regularly terrorize people in nightclubs. Working in conjunction with Canadian law enforcement, Vogt-Roberts gathered his courage and returned to Saigon to speak with witnesses and informants himself.
Eventually they got what passes for good news in a story like this. One assailant, Kenny Cuong, had been arrested in India for running a ketamine-smuggling operation and was sentenced to 12 years. Billy Tran, the mastermind behind these international drug trades, remains at large, possibly in Bangkok. Still, Vogt-Roberts was ecstatic. Not only did this bring some semblance of closure to his tale, but he knew that, while his attackers had fled the country out of fear, he had returned to Vietnam, stronger, and alive.
You can read the whole, harrowing tale here.
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