Inside the making of Thirteen Lives - including actors learning to cave dive

by 24britishtvAug. 5, 2022, 10 p.m. 17
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The film Thirteen Lives, based on the astonishing rescue of 13 youngsters from a cave in Thailand in 2018, could very well have been a disaster – but the cast and crew went to some pretty big lengths to ensure that the story was done justice (although of course it was nothing compared to what the boys and their coach went through).

It was an event that had the world gripped and terrified – a junior association football team and their 25-year-old coach became trapped after heavy rainfall partially flooded the cave system

Thankfully, after two weeks and a rescue effort that involved more than 10,000 people, they were all saved.

The cast and crew on the new film, which is directed by Ron Howard and stars Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton, have spoken about how determined they were to tell the story well.

Rick Stanton, who Viggo plays in the new film and who was an essential part of the rescue mission, had a hand in teaching the actor how to cave dive for real.

The pair spent hours chatting over Zoom, before Stanton became a technical advisor during production.

In fact, part of his training may have saved Viggo’s life.

The actor told People that when he went through a narrow spot on set, the valve of one of his oxygen tanks switched off.

‘All of a sudden I couldn’t breathe,’ he recalled. ‘It seemed like a long time, but it was only a matter of seconds. I panicked’

Thankfully, Viggo recalled Rick telling him to switch the mouthpiece and breathe using his second tank, which he was able to do in the moment.

Emulating the exact movements of the rescuers

It wasn’t just cave diving that Viggo and Colin, who plays John Volanthen (another one of the real-life divers) had to learn.

Playing a real person comes with having to study them, and the pair had to emulate the Rick and John’s real movements, including the way they swim.

Howard told The Hollywood Reporter: ‘The same divers were there with us during our prep and as we were shooting, and Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell in particular, but the other guys as well, trained with them and copied their style.

‘So we had a couple of weeks where they were in the water with them every day, emulating it and for that reason, because they’ve done that work — they also volunteered to work on the weekends and whatever was required, so that all of the shots are them — they learned the cave diving techniques and the personalities of the men that they were playing.’

Building an exact recreation of the cave system

The boys and their coach got trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the in Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand.

Of course, it would have been impossible to film in a real cave system, so the cave had to be replicated exactly.

Howard and his team constructed five different tanks. Each of them had a different cave and tunnel system to recreate the real-life situation.

Although they were recreations, it didn’t make the situation much less terrifying for the actors, especially Colin, who spoke about having panic attacks while filming, due to not being a very strong swimmer.

Howard acknowledged that he wouldn’t have been able to accurately portray Thai culture, and has opened up about the help that co-producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon was able to provide.

According to Bloomberg, he was consulted on the use of prayer, regional accents, and more.

Raymond told the outlet: ‘A large portion of the film is in Thai, which is quite an unusual thing for a Hollywood film.

‘We painstakingly tried to get the accents right. Even in Thai cinema, you rarely hear people speak with a Northern accent.’

Thirteen Lives is available to stream on Prime Video now.

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us [email protected], calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

MORE : British Thai cave rescue heroes join Colin Farrell and Thirteen Lives cast at premiere

MORE : Colin Farrell and Tom Bateman on ‘terrifying’ challenge of shooting Thailand cave rescue film Thirteen Lives

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