Director Ron Howard’s survival drama Thirteen Lives received mostly rave reviews. The film, based on a real incident from 2018, tells the story of cave divers and Thai authorities as they race against time to rescue 12 children and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave. Ahead of the film’s release, the famed filmmaker spoke to HT about what went into making the film and why he chose to make a film in a language he doesn’t speak. Read also : Thirteen Lives review: Ron Howard’s survival drama is the best film of the year
Thirteen Lives is the true story of the Tham Luang cave rescue, where international cave divers helped rescue children and their coach after 18 days in the flooded cave during the dreaded Thai monsoons. Ron says he always looked for authenticity when telling the story, which is why depicting the Thai side of things was very important. He says: “You can imagine it was a very difficult story, a story that people knew a lot about and yet there was so much more to reveal. One of the things the rest of the world doesn’t know much about is what was really going on on the Thai side. There have been so many stories about divers and of course we want to focus on that for all its dramatic value. But, on an emotional level, I felt that the most complete and surprising elements could be discovered more in Thai people.
Most of the scenes involving the Thai cast are in the native language, a language Ron does not understand or speak. Elaborating on the challenges of making a film where he doesn’t understand half of the dialogue, Ron says, “I don’t speak Thai. I also don’t understand the regional differences. It turns out that the north has a very different dialect than the south. As I was beginning to understand, it was important to choose the key players from the north. I then supplemented them to make sure the script language was correct. So authenticity is something I had to depend on my Thai collaborators for.
The film stars big Hollywood names as divers, including Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton and Tom Bateman. But Ron said none of them were treated like stars on set. “I told all the actors, even if they’re movie stars, that this is an ensemble film,” he says, adding, “I felt more responsible to acknowledge the many contributions from the Thai side. I went there with the conscience of trying to avoid these clichés.
This isn’t Ron’s first time directing a survival thriller based on a true story. His 1995 film Apollo 13 was about the aborted 1970 lunar mission, where American astronauts were trapped in space. The Oscar-winning actor says he was encouraged to do Thirteen Lives because of the experiences he had while making Apollo 13. experiences of Apollo 13. It gave me confidence and I naturally somehow figured out how to convey that. Then I started more like a journalist as much as I could on the facts,” he says.
Thirteen Lives was released on Prime Video on August 5 to overwhelmingly positive reviews, with many calling it one of the best movies of the year and calling it an Oscar contender for next year.