On board 32m superyacht Demarest with owner and actor William Johnson who talks to BOAT about how he traded Hollywood for Thailand.
I lived in Hollywood for years, making movies – I made 27 features including Hackshaw Ridge, which won a couple of Academy Awards. I love telling true stories that inspire people, but I didn’t like Hollywood so much. It’s a bit crazy and not a healthy spiritual place. After 35 years in LA, I came to Thailand, the land of smiles, fell in love with it and quickly got into boating.
I really discovered boats when I was eight. My parents belonged to the Bay Head Yacht Club and us kids used to race little sailboats, called duck boats. I was the youngest of seven kids. My parents didn’t really have any money – we drank powdered milk – but we never knew it as kids. My father went on to found Franklin Templeton, which became an international company.
I think I always associated having a yacht with having arrived, and it was two years ago, when I bought the 32 metre Falcon that I achieved that goal. The yacht wasn’t in good shape but after a total refit, I think Demarest is the most beautiful yacht in that range. My biggest extravagance on board is a Buddha from Myanmar that is several hundred years old; he has a neutral expression on his face. Real Buddhism is about being even.
I love to be in the spa pool on the upper deck while the yacht is cruising. I think everyone should have that experience on their bucket list. My favourite cruising ground is the Monument, a series of islands around Phuket with so many spots to drop anchor and be in your own little world. I’ve had amazing moments with friends, sitting on the foredeck talking about life in that really quiet time when the sun goes down and the stars come out of the darkness. Sometimes cruising at sunset alone with my two dogs, I feel like there is some kind of presence; it’s that beautiful moment of contentment when you feel everything is going to be okay.
Our first charter guests were John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. Chrissy shared the trip with her millions of followers. My friend and Hackshaw Ridge director Mel Gibson will be coming out once Covid restrictions are lifted.
When I first came to Thailand, I had a really bad motorcycle accident. I received great medical care and discovered regenerative stem cell medicine. A friend and I are launching a company called RenewyouAsia, which offers luxury vacations. These include cruising on a yacht, relaxing on a private island and meeting specialists of regenerative medicine. Being on a yacht is good for the soul and now we are making it good for the body.
I try to spend three or four days a week on board, starting the day with some waterskiing. Yachting is my meditation.