Colin Farrell, Tom Bateman, Sahajak Boonthankit

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with thirteen lives stars Colin Farrell, Tom Bateman and Sahajak ‘Poo’ Boonthankit on working with Ron Howard and preparing to play the real-life heroes the film follows. The film will premiere on Prime Video on Friday, August 5.

thirteen lives tells the incredible true story of the tremendous global effort to rescue a Thai soccer team that was trapped in the Tham Luang cave during an unexpected storm,” reads the synopsis. “Faced with insurmountable odds, a team of the world’s most skilled and experienced divers, exceptionally capable of navigating the maze of narrow flooded cave tunnels, joins Thai forces and more than 10,000 volunteers to attempt a harrowing rescue of the twelve children and their coach. With incredibly high stakes and the whole world watching, the group embarks on their most challenging dive yet, showing the limitlessness of the human spirit in the process.”

Tyler Treese: Colin, I was really curious, were you able to meet with John? [Volanthen, the diver that Farrell plays] o What was your preparation to play this real life hero?

Colin Farrell: Tyler, I haven’t met John in person yet, but he was incredibly generous with his time and energy in preparing for the film. I think I got the digits from him about two months before we traveled to Australia, maybe, and I reached out to him. And then we set up a few times for us to FaceTime. We were all living in a FaceTime world at that stage, anyway… a FaceTime/Zoom world. Social distancing and lockdown were in the midst of the pandemic here. So yeah, he felt more natural than he could have, but he was great. He was so generous and forthcoming with his experience during this time, the 17 days of the rescue, and also with his life in general. He was quite open with me.

He’s [a] somewhat reserved man, very humble. [He] I felt like a completely decent human being: that was what struck me the most, having spent time talking to him. I mean, he had a lot of questions to ask about certain events and facts and things, but his absolute decency was something that stuck with me, you know? And the humility of him, to have been a part of what he was a part of… being as humble as he was. I mean, there was a premiere last night in Los Angeles, right? And they would have paid John to come, and he’s nowhere to be seen. I think he was washing his hair or something or he had a barbecue to go to. I don’t know, but he’s not that interested in it. He kind of avoids everything. Unfortunately I didn’t go to London to meet him, I would have loved to, but it was an absolute honor to portray him as a man in this film.

Tom, how does your approach as an actor change when you play a real life figure instead of a character?

TomBatman: I have played some real life figures, but none of them are still alive, and the story was very recent. It’s only been about four years since then, right? So it didn’t really change my focus from how I read as much as I can and devour as much as I can to be as informed as possible about the person I’m playing. This was made easier for me because Chris was, as Colin said about John, very generous with his time. I had a five or six hour Zoom with him just a couple of days after I got the job, and all the footage I watched on his YouTube channel. Chris Jewel [has] i got this amazing youtube channel where you can see his point of view through caves that he is doing by himself.

So I was really able to get a sense of who this guy was, and we just exchanged numbers. He would send him a WhatsApp at any time, day or night, he would help me. He might ask you, “what were you doing this morning?” Because so much of this movie, life was happening between the lines. The lines on the page weren’t necessarily what the scene was about. We had to fill in a lot of that and find the color in the scene, and what we’re going to do as this scene takes place. These guys were constantly busy. They were checking their oxygen supply, they were checking their flashlight batteries, they were repairing their equipment, they were tending their hands, they were rubbing their hands. So it was a real joy and a privilege to have Chris there to say, “This is what he was doing that morning. This is what he was thinking. This is what I was going through.” He made my job so much easier.

Poo, Ron Howard is such a talented director. What stood out about working with him?

Sahajak “Poo” Boonthankit: Wow. How would you feel working with Ron Howard? Honored. It’s outrageously amazing. I don’t know what other adjectives I can use. I always wanted to work with him and now I know that it was really worth it and that I would do it again and again and again. He is quite a compassionate director and he would do it again.

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