Is Brokedown Palace Based on a True Story?

‘Brokedown Palace’ is a drama thriller movie that centers on two best friends, Alice and Darlene. On their trip to Thailand, they meet Nick Parks, a charming Australian man who lures them into taking a side trip to Hong Kong. The budget-friendly tour tricks them into accepting the man’s offer. At the airport, security detains the duo for carrying heroin, which begins a long battle with the Thai government as the girls struggle to maintain their sanity.

The 1999 film is directed by Jonathan Kaplan and really makes one empathize with Alice and Darlene, who are stranded in the worst possible conditions in a foreign country. If the compelling narrative and relatable characters make you wish to learn if this intense cinematic piece is inspired by real events, here’s all you need to know.

Is Brokedown Palace a True Story?

Yes, ‘Brokedown Palace’ is loosely based on the true story of Patricia Ann Cahill and Karyn Joanne Smith. The two were convicted and, as reports suggest, found guilty of the intention of carrying 26 kilos of heroin as they left Thailand. Akin to what’s portrayed in the movie, their parents weren’t aware that the duo was leaving for Thailand. Moreover, they also claimed that the drugs were planted on them until Karyn came clean and confessed about knowing that they were carrying something, but not drugs, to be exact.

Reports suggest that Adam Fields (producer) conducted interviews with people in a similar situation who are stuck in Thailand prisons to understand their perspectives and experience. Adam and David Arata were involved in the story’s ideation, and the latter crafted a screenplay out of it.

In an interview, Kate Beckinsale, who essays the role of Darlene in the film, addressed the efforts of the filmmaker to adapt to real-life experiences. She said, “The director had been in Thailand before and had visited with girls who were jailed under the same circumstances. He knew of true stories, and it made making a movie about the subject a lot easier.” She also revealed that the scenes with the roaches in the movie were real, and they had actual cockroaches on the set.

Moreover, Kate praised the director for supporting her. She expressed, “It was great to have the chance to work with (Kaplan), who is known as a ladies’ director. He was great in helping us find the emotions.” Actress Claire Danes was caught amidst controversy when she reportedly made some comments that were hurtful to the sentiments of people and even government officials. Alas, she had to comment to clarify her stance. She stated, “Because of the subject matter of our film Brokedown Palace, the cast was exposed to the darker and more impoverished places of Manila.”

She added, “My comments in Premiere magazine only reflect those locations, not my attitude toward the Filipino people. They were nothing but warm, friendly, and supportive.” However, the apology did not sit well with the officials, and the Manila city council refused to lift the ban they imposed on her. With that said, Adam Fields was truly dedicated to learning more about the lifestyle led by imprisoned American women in Thailand. He purportedly interviewed 15 of them and also had discussions with the Drug Enforcement Agency officials in Bangkok and U.S. Embassy.

He highlighted that most women he spoke to were aware of the fact that they were smuggling an illegal substance or thing but also found some to be innocent. He also made an observation that many of them were single mothers and were drawn into the trap by a man who tricked them. Richard Atkins, employed at the Philadelphia-based International Legal Defense Counsel, proposed another theory. He said, “They might also be plain or heavy, or have psychological problems, or just not have gotten a lot of attention from men. Often the attention from the guy (drug trafficker) is as big a seduction as the exotic vacation or the few hundred dollars he offers for smuggling.”

Atkins also confirmed that the sleeping arrangement showcased in prison was realistic. However, he sees no faults in the Thai penal system and its actions toward foreign inmates. A retired DEA compared the punishment for drug sentences to “getting the death penalty for a traffic ticket.” Taking the aforementioned facts into account, one can say that even though ‘Brokedown Palace’ is not a true story, it is the reality of many girls who fall prey to quick schemes and shams and repent for the same by spending the majority of their lives in prison with inhumane conditions.

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