Interview: Ron Howard & Raymond Phathanavirangoon on Thirteen Lives

ComingSoon editor-in-chief Tyler Treese spoke Thirteen lives director Ron Howard and producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon to accurately depict the true events on which the film is based. The film is now available for streaming through Prime Video.

Thirteen lives tells the incredible true story of the massive global effort to save a Thai soccer team trapped in the Tham Luang cave during an unexpected rainstorm,” says the synopsis. “Faced with insurmountable odds, a team of the world’s most skilled and experienced dive – uniquely able to navigate the maze of flooded, narrow cave tunnels – alongside Thai forces and more than 10,000 volunteers to attempt a harrowing rescue of the twelve boys and their coach. With improbably 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: Ron, some filmmakers would have just focused on the kids and the divers, but instead you give this great overall look. We see the rescue work that the volunteers did and the involvement of the government. Can you talk about that decision? Because I thought it really paid off.

Ron Howard: Early on, after I read the script by Bill Nicholson, I thought, “What a great story, what great movie moments.” I then followed up with my own research just to make sure things were really happening and it really, really did, but I started learning more and more and I literally wrote down on my manuscript cover, the very first draft, as I read. , I said, “Anatomy of a Miracle. I started to feel that, although we definitely wanted to do the different events, and that’s the epicenter of the action and the tension and the real life and death, but I recognize so many other brands of heroism and courage on display, and I thought you mustn’t overlook that. They can’t be in that cave if there’s no food. They can’t be in that cave if there’s not the water pumping system running, if there is the medical team.

I felt it was important to say, “This is what it looks like, folks.” If you want to achieve something big. It’s not just one thing. It’s not just somebody coming to the rescue, it’s a group of people coming into this mindset, it might be a long shot, but we’re going to take the time that we have right now, the resources that we have right now, we won’t look anywhere else. We just want to look at ourselves and give what we can and try to make it happen. And I really hope that’s a takeaway for people who watch the film.

Beautifully said, and Raymond, that’s just such a great story. Like we’re on a set of thousands of people coming together to save these boys’ lives. How satisfying is it to know that you are really helping to honor the heroism of these people who really sacrificed a lot?

Raymond Phathanavirangoon: I mean, you know, I’m just a little cog in the wheel of everything, but my real duty is to really honor what Ron had actually told me about, which is…when we started, he said, “Look, we been through this pandemic, the world is kind of torn apart, socially, politically, and there’s this real story that actually gives so much hope because it shows that when people come together without all these barriers between us, we can actually achieve something really amazing. And isn’t that such an important message that we have for the world today? Where there’s a lot of division going on.” And I thought it was so true because yes, of course, it’s a story that took place in Thailand that involved Thai children and required the whole nation to come together. But bigger than that and one country, it’s really about about humanity in general. I think that’s a message that we just really need right now.

Ron Howard: I realized that there was a lot of fascination, freshness and entertainment value in Thai culture. Because we see it in movies, but generally it’s kind of action, it’s maybe crime-based, and that’s cool. But it’s mostly Bangkok. And when I started to understand this story, there was a whole other aspect of Thai culture that is very unique, very powerful, and had a huge impact on this story, including the spirituality of the northern region of Thailand that was in it, and even the European divers who came in without knowing anything about it, many of them told me that they felt something there, that there was something about the spiritual energy of the place that was palpable.

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