In the summer of 2018, the world watched as a 12-man Thai football team and their coach were rescued from a flooded cave for more than two weeks.
But despite actor Colin Farrell recreating some of that experience for the movie (Batman, Miami Police) says he still cannot imagine what the divers went through.
“I’ve had several panic attacks underwater with 20 lifeguards,” he told CBC News. “There was a sense of claustrophobia that some of us struggled with.”
Farrell is filming thirteen lives, a feature film from Prime Video featuring the rescue. Directed by Ron Howard, the film also stars Joel Edgerton and Viggo Mortenson and will hit select theaters on Friday and is available to watch on August 5th.
The dramatic rescue of the boys and their coach is not the first time and not the last time it is recreated on screen. Cave will retell the story in 2019, and in September Netflix will release a six-episode series Rescue in a Thai cave. There was also a documentary directed by Jimmy Chin. The rescue which had its Canadian premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
Despite this, HowardApollo 13, beautiful mind) feels like there’s room for more than one movie.
“The promise you make to the audience is a little different in a documentary than in a feature film,” he said. “You’re just creating the feeling of what you might feel if you were actually there.”
Farrell, who plays diver John Volanten, says the film strikes a balance between telling how parties around the world have collaborated to help these boys while remaining essentially a Thai story.
He notes that not a word of English was spoken in the first 10 minutes. “In my experience, the movie was really more about the Thais and the Thai spirit,” Farrell said.
Thai-born co-producer Vorakorn “Billy” Rutaiwanichkul says the scale of the story they were trying to tell required international cooperation, as did the rescue. He says the goal was to “touch audiences around the world.” The team also worked with Thai consultants and actors from the region affected by the rescue.
The scale of the events surrounding the rescue also influenced Howard’s narrative.
“It’s a story of a process in many ways,” he said. “The technical and physical aspect of diving. It is also a process of salvation from the side of the government, the cultural side, the point of view of the parents, the rice farmers.”
Howard says he has been very detailed about these processes, adding that he works more with documentaries and studies how people respond to coercion.
“As a director, I am developing in my own understanding of people and their behavior. And I hope to share that with this story,” he said.
Edgerton plays Richard “Harry” Harris in the Australian Anesthesiologist film. and diver who made the difficult and potentially deadly decision to administer anesthesia to the boys trapped in the cave so that they could be rescued despite the enormous risk involved.
“I can only imagine what the burden of that responsibility and that choice would have been,” said Edgerton, who was on his way to becoming a father at the time of filming.
Edgerton says he enjoyed working with kids on set, despite a longstanding industry adage. “I know what it was [comedian] W.C. Fields said, “Don’t work with children or animals,” he said. “But every time a problem can arise, there is a lot to learn from working with a young person.”
He says he was impressed by the performances of the Thai children in the film, many of whom he says have never acted before.
“It’s such a purity, innocence and uncomplicated approach to working in front of the camera. I was so touched by some of the kids,” he says.
“There were a couple of moments that made me gasp.”
WATCH | thirteen lives trailer: