Playing a real-life tragic hero is never easy, especially when one also needs to reenact their devastating death scene in a large scale production. Sukollawat “Weir” Kanarot felt the pressure of his performance as former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan in Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives.
Kunan was one of the volunteer divers who lost his life during the 2018 Thailand cave rescue after losing too much oxygen in his tank. Hailed as a hero, Kunan received the highest honors for his funeral, which was sponsored by the Thai Royal family.
“Honestly, it was very hard because he’s not here,” Kanarot told The Nerds of Color over Zoom during the Thirteen Lives press junket. “I couldn’t have a conversation with him about what happened.”
Instead, Kanarot had to do a lot of research on the fallen SEAL and spoke to some who knew of Kunan. He learned of Kunan’s kind nature and always lent a hand to help. Kanarot also knew he had to embody being a Navy SEAL as well, which means being strong and swimming really well. He truly wanted to do Kunan justice and credits Howard for guiding him throughout the film, including the difficult death scene.
“Ron told me to follow what I knew of the character and script that was discussed and if there were any problems, we’d adjust it on set,” said Kanarot. “I understood what the situation was and performed based on that. If Ron needed more or less, he’d let me know. It was a partnership.”
The diving aspect was the most scary for Kanarot. Although he had a diving certificate, he had no stunt doubles for his scene, which meant he had to perform the intense death scene himself.
“The most difficult scene was being underwater for Saman’s [death] scene,” he explained. “I had to hold my breath. It was real and I had to play the character. Fortunately, there were safety teams nearby so I felt comfortable. Everything that you saw that came out of [from the scene], I really liked it.”
Thirteen Lives is currently playing in limited theaters and premieres on August 5 on Prime Video.