Thirteen Lives, the latest feature from acclaimed director Ron Howard and producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon is a survival biopic like no other. Chronicling the 2018 rescue of a junior soccer team and their coach who became trapped in the caves of northern Thailand after heavy rainfall flooded much of the cave system, the story was one that captivated the world as divers and rescue personnel from around the globe traveled to the Chiang Rai Province to try and help bring the team out alive. In an exclusive with PopCulture.com, Howard admitted there was a "high degree of difficulty" to film and replicate those conditions.
"Maybe nothing tops Apollo 13 or Backdraft, because there was a real kind of danger factor there too," Howard explained to PopCulture. "But very, very tricky and yet, those moments that the divers could describe, but had never, ever been recorded by anyone in a documentary. Those really difficult moments of trying to rescue the boys; I knew that that had to be the backbone of this to make it cinematic, make it suspenseful, make it a movie, movie, which I really hope it is."
Howard adds it's "great to have an opportunity to try to transport audiences to a place they haven't really been before," let alone very few have ever been in those caves at all. "[The audience] certainly haven't been in caves underwater and so, that notion that this is something individuals do and the really exacting nature of presenting it the way it actually works, which is kind of improvised," he said. "It's a little like mountain climbing under there, in its own way. Those were all, I thought, just great entertainment opportunities. And all speak to this amazing commitment and volunteerism that, across the board, whether in the water or up on the mountain or at the base camp or in the medics tent, was making all of this possible, so that these boys could in fact be rescued."
At the time of the interview, the boys who lived through the frightening ordeal had not yet seen Thirteen Lives, but Phathanavirangoon confirmed that there are plans for them to have a screening. "We haven't actually had a screening yet in Thailand. But we are planning a premiere on the 4th of August to basically gather all the people," he said. "Unfortunately, because I'm here and everything, I'm not exactly involved with the day-to-day. But yeah, I think the invitations are going out. I don't know if they will end up seeing it. But for sure, basically, when the film is out, on Amazon Prime on August 5th, we really hope that we would see them and see what they think about it."
Thirteen Lives stars Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, and Paul Gleeson as rescue team members who travel to Thailand and worked to bring the boys out of the cave. Other stars of the film include Weir Sukollawat Kanarot, Pattrakorn 'Ploy' Tungsupakul, Thiraphat Sajakul, Sahajak "Poo" Boonthanakit, Vithaya Pansringarm, Teeradon "James" Supapunpinyo, Nophand Boonyai, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, and U Gambira. Howard directed the film from a screenplay by William Nicholson, based on a story written by Nicholson and Don Macpherson. Thirteen Lives is now playing in select theaters and will debut on Prime Video on Aug. 5.