The third season of HBO's “The White Lotus” was originally set in Japan before it was moved to Thailand — a decision reportedly made to save money.
Scouting Japan: At the ongoing Tokyo Film Festival, Georgina Pope, a producer with Toho Tombo Pictures, spoke of a “high profile showrunner” whom she recently went on a scouting trip with to find locations for a certain project. She said they visited “some absolutely stunning” spots in Honshu — Japan’s main island — and the showrunner “loved it all,” Deadline reported.
Behind the move: While the scout went “great,” the showrunner and their team eventually backed out after receiving a call from a production company based in Thailand. There, the project was promised a huge tax incentive, while Japan did not offer any.
“It was a Thai production company informing them that the Thai government had just announced a renewal and improvement on their film incentive system. A 30% rebate. For their project, that meant $4.4 million alone,” Pope said, adding that all she could hear afterward was “the sound of a $35 million project flying out the window.”
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About the project: Deadline said it confirmed that the showrunner in question was Mike White, and that the scouting trip was for the third season of “The White Lotus.” Variety confirmed in March that the show will be set in Thailand.
A Japan location, however, had been hinted even before the third season’s confirmation last November. The clue came from White himself while he was discussing about cast member Jennifer Coolidge.
“Jennifer is my friend and everybody loved her in the first season, and I was like, ‘I can’t go to Italy without Jennifer.’ And maybe that’s still the case,” White said. “Like, maybe you can’t go to Japan without Jennifer, either. There are so many fun actors we’ve worked with so far, so it’s just kind of like who’s available.”
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Since then, the latest installment of the HBO comedy-drama has always been thought to be set in Asia. “I think the third season would be maybe a satirical and funny look at death and Eastern religion and spirituality,” White said after the second season’s finale.
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