EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired the life rights of the divers and survivors of summer’s Tham Luang cave rescue in Thailand when 12 boys aged 11-16 and their coach of the Wild Boar soccer team were trapped 1,000 meters below the surface.

Michael De Luca will produce for his eponymous production company, alongside Dana Brunetti for his newly launched Cavalry Media banner. The duo are reteaming following their successful collaboration on the billion-dollar grossing Fifty Shades of Grey series, as well as their six-Oscar nominee Somali Pirate hijack feature Captain Phillips and three-time Oscar winner The Social Network.

CAA agent Matt DelPiano was instrumental and led a team effort, traveling to Thailand and Australia to secure the life rights for those involved including Wild Boar team Coach Aekkaphol Chantawong, divers Dr. Richard Harris and Dr. Craig Challen, and the players on the Wild Boar soccer team.

Craig Challen, right, and Richard Harris were involved in rescuing 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach from a flooded Thai cave.
AP Images

On June 23, the Wild Boar soccer team and their coach became trapped in Tham Luang Cave by monsoon rains and ultimately were rescued over the course of three days from July 8-10. The risks of the harrowing rescue were underscored on July 6 when a retired Thai Navy SEAL died in an underwater passage, followed by three SEALs who were hospitalized after their oxygen tanks ran low. Challen, a retired Perth vet, and Harris, were diving buddies and planning a trip to Australia’s Nullarbor Plain when they received a call from Thai authorities to head to Tham Luang. Harris gave the medical all-clear for each evacuation and administering anesthesia to the boys. Hours before the rescue was complete, Harris learned that his father had passed away. Challen had a reputation for setting depth records, and exploring Australia’s longest underwater cave, and dived some of the country’s deepest wrecks.

Similar to Captain Phillips which was based on Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty’s book’s A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea, a book by Harris and Challen is being planned, and is part of the overall Universal deal. The project was packaged by CAA.

“Like many who watched the events of the rescue mission unfold earlier this year, we were in awe of the divers’ heroic efforts and relieved when they were able to bring the entire soccer team and their coach to safety.  We’re excited for the opportunity to tell this amazing story with Universal,” said De Luca and Brunetti in a joint statement.

Deadline exclusively reported on another Tham Luang rescue drama in development, The Cave, with Tom Waller attached to direct and De Warrenne Pictures producing with Wild Bunch and IMR handling international sales.