In 2018, in a small rural village in northern Thailand, thirteen lives were changed forever after being trapped in a cave for 18 days. The junior football team, which consisted of twelve children and their adult coach, went hiking along the caves of Tham Luang, but a unexpected rainstorm caused the cave to flood — trapping them deep within the caves. It took a rescue team of over 10,000 people from all over the world to save these boys.
Director Ron Howard, like many others around the world, were glued to the story of the rescue mission. He knew he wanted to be part of sharing this story. This is why he knew he wanted to direct the biopic surrounding the rescue, Thirteen Lives.
“There were more levels and dimensions to the heroics and to the people involved, especially the Thai people, and there were surprises in the story,” Howard said in a global press conference for the trailer yesterday. “I just felt like I could make something really visceral and immediate, and do what a scripted version of a telling of a true story is supposed to do, which is to make it more engaging and engage the nervous system of the audience, in addition to trying to give all the information. It was a really exciting creative opportunity for me, and I knew I would learn a lot about Thai culture.”
Of course, Howard and his team collaborated with Thai creatives to ensure authenticity to the story. “This story is very, very important to Thai culture, understandably so,” Howard explains. “It’s a story they should be incredibly proud of because of the way the Thai government and Thai leadership actually made this rescue possible. The more I learned about it on a very emotional level, I realized that the epicenter of this was the caves, the boys, the coach, and the intensity and focus of that rescue. That’s very cinematic, intense, and suspenseful, and I wanted to capture that.”
Howard worked with Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom to bring Thailand’s beauty to life. “This is just a tremendous case study,” says Howard. “As a director, I also knew it was gonna be an exciting challenge. The drama in the cave, I knew that was gonna be a cinematic challenge that I was excited to meet. I knew that the acting opportunities were gonna be very emotional and focused. And I also knew that a large percentage of this story was gonna be in Thai, and it would need to reflect a culture and these characters in very nuanced, very connected, contemporary, thoughtful ways. And I knew there was a lot of entertainment value and power in that, if we could get that right.”
Thirteen Lives stars Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, Paul Gleeson, Pattrakorn Tungsupakul, Tui Thiraphat Sajakul, James Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Sahajak Boonthanakit, and Weir Sukollawat Kanaros.
Thirteen Lives hits select theaters exclusively for one week on July 29 and launches globally on Prime Video on August 5.
Thirteen Lives recounts the incredible true story of the tremendous global effort to rescue a Thai soccer team who become trapped in the Tham Luang cave during an unexpected rainstorm. Faced with insurmountable odds, a team of the world’s most skilled and experienced divers — uniquely able to navigate the maze of flooded, narrow cave tunnels — join with Thai forces and more than 10,000 volunteers to attempt a harrowing rescue of the twelve boys and their coach. With impossibly high stakes and the entire world watching, the group embarks on their most challenging dive yet, showcasing the limitlessness of the human spirit in the process.