Ron Howard’s penchant for bringing history to the film screen is in full effect in Thirteen Lives, which is now available to stream on Prime Video. In it, the Apollo 13 director recreates the events of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, allowing audiences to understand why it was so dangerous for the boys trapped in a flooded cave – and how exactly the brave divers were able to get them out.
The stars of Thirteen Lives were just as affected by the gripping true story when it went down as viewers around the world were, so reliving the tense times from another perspective was a unique experience. Colin Farrell and Tom Bateman play two of the divers who traveled to help, while Thai actor Sahajak “Poo” Boonthankit (Fistful of Vengeance) plays Governor Narongsak.
Screen Rant spoke to Bateman, Farrell and Boonthankit about how they experienced the events of Thirteen Lives in real-time before reliving them on the set of the film.
Screen Rant: What a movie; what a story. I remember this happening, but I feel like the movie just elicited so many positive feelings for me of selflessness. Do you remember when this happened? And what stuck out to you most about this story?
Tom Bateman: I think the first [time] that I got really into it was when they found the boys. I remember thinking, “Those boys were being stuck in the cave, and when they found them.” And then it just became this every day, checking in on the news on how they were doing. And I just remember the beauty of when they said, “They’ve got them out.” Everyone was running around, and it’s all anyone was talking about at the time. It was a beautiful, very special time.
Because, usually with the news, you’re not really bonded by joy. You’re bonded by bad things. “Oh, my God, have you seen this awful thing? This awful thing.” I think I can count on maybe one hand the amount of times you have a news story like this, that just makes you happy and full of joy and hopeful and want to be a better person.
Colin Farrell: And that was the thing about it, though, wasn’t it? That you were caught between catastrophe and the potential of what actually came to pass, because we saw it in real-time.
So, it was actually a horrible thing that was going on. And we were stuck in the fear of the present, where we believed globally that the children were still alive. But we didn’t know if, while we were talking about them being still alive, they were actually dying. Nobody knew until the guys got to them, and then there was some confirmation that they were there. And then there was back and forth; there were certain dives happening. But, as Tom said, when the moment came that they started coming out and the ambulance started disappearing and airlifting them and airlifting them. And the information wasn’t shared of who was out,; how many were out.
And even when the mission started, it was all very cloak and dagger. All of a sudden, all the press were pushed back and nobody knew exactly what the means were [by which] they were going to be extracted.
Poo, I want to hear, because I can’t believe we worked together and I never heard from you. I never asked you, because we were all just working, so we were involved in the present together of making the film. What was it like for you, man? You were in the country?
Sahajak Poo Boonthankit: Yes, I was. I was in Thailand at the time. But I think it’s very different for me, personally. I always say I heard about the boys getting stuck, and… At first, I was actually angry at the boys. “Why did they even go in there? What drove you? What took you in there?”
And then, you found out, “Okay, they didn’t intend to go in when it was raining. It rained after they went in.” Okay. Five days, six days go on. I’m saying, “Okay, maybe they’re dead.” And now, being Thai, you start to sit in front of your mantle and you pray. You light your [prayer sticks] and everything, and hope that they come out well and alive.
Colin Farrell: Was the whole country doing that, you think? The majority?
Sahajak Boonthankit: Yes, I do believe so. I do believe so. It’s a cultural thing.
And then, on the seventh, eighth, ninth day, I’m saying, “Wait, I have four children. What if one of them was in there?” Now, it gets really intense. Then you hear people are coming from all over the world to help, and I can’t even do anything. I don’t know how to dive. I can’t do anything. So, I’m just sitting there, shaking, praying, hoping. And once they came out, once we heard that the kids were all well, it was a big relief.
But it wasn’t until I read the script that I understood the inner workings of everything, and all the hair stood on end. It was amazing.
Because I’m a diver, I’m like, “Why can’t they just dive and get them out?” I did not understand. And then, when you watch the movie, you’re like, “Okay.”
Colin Farrell: It’s not safe.
Tom Bateman: Is it normal diving, or cave diving you do?
I’ve done some cave diving – not like that. Colin, I take it you’re not going to keep your certification going?
Colin Farrell: Ash, it’s a certified fact that your balls are bigger than mine. Because I was asked by a couple of the lads, “When you finish the film, are you going to do some cave diving?” And I said, “Absolutely not.”
I mean, they did build these extravagant cave systems. There was four or five different networks that were based on the ordinance of the Tham Luang cave system. There was pinch points and bits that went down and stalactites and stuff. It was tight in there, and we had safety divers and all that stuff, but you’re still in water and still looking up, and there’s a roof on top of your head.
Tom, you found it uncomfortable at times, didn’t you? I mean, I really did.
Tom Bateman: Thank you so much for that. One of my favorite memories, though, is I remember you and me both – I think it was Viggo, you, me, Joel and Paul. And we all got stuck in the middle. The camera-
Colin Farrell: Disaster. And I have Viggo’s fin in my f**king face, and someone pushing me from behind.
Tom Bateman: Exactly. I got Paul falling asleep on my leg. But I remember coming out of it and this beautiful moment [where] I think we grabbed each other, like, “You good? You good?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m good. I don’t want to go back down there again.” They’re like, “Okay guys, resetting, you’re going again.” No, I don’t want to do it.
Colin Farrell: And it was a 4-foot dive with 20 safety guys in 2.5 feet of water. I did find it nerve-wracking.
The difference between… I’d done a little bit of open water scuba diving, but it’s night and day from anything that has a seal on it. I don’t know how they do it. It’s just a very different mentality that I don’t really have. I have a little bit of – don’t want to diagnose myself with panic syndrome, but the head can get away from me pretty quickly.
A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.
Check out our other interview with Thirteen Lives’ Ron Howard & Raymond Phathanavirangoon, stars Joel Edgerton, Viggo Mortensen & James Teeradon Supapunpinyo and Weir Sukollawat Kanaros & Pattrakorn Tungsupakul.
Thirteen Lives is currently available to stream on Prime Video.