EXCLUSIVE: It took a village to rescue those 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thailand cave in 2018. MGM and Thirteen Lives director Ron Howard have firmed a big international cast to play the heroic rescuers who took part in a dangerous operation that cost one rescue diver — Thai Navy SEAL Saman Gunan — his life. All of the boys, and the coach, were saved before floodwaters completely filled the caves.
Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton will star with Weir Sukollawat (Malila), Thiraphat Sajakul (The Serpent), Sahajak Boonthanakit (The Serpent), Vithaya Pansringarm (The Prey), Teeradon “James” Supapunpinyo (Bad Genius), Nophand Boonyai (Only God Forgives), Tom Bateman (Death on the Nile), Paul Gleeson (The Thin Red Line), and Lewis Fitz-Gerald (Pitch Black).
The film will shoot in Australia — with the support of the Australian and Queensland Governments — and also Thailand. Production begins this month. Thirteen Lives will be released theatrically in the U.S. via MGM’s joint venture distribution company United Artists Releasing, and internationally through Universal Pictures International.
MGM is mounting the film with BRON Creative, Imagine Entertainment, Storyteller Productions, and Magnolia Mae. The film is written by Gladiator‘s William Nicholson and produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Karen Lunder of Imagine Entertainment, P.J. van Sandwijk of Storyteller Productions, and Gabrielle Tana of Magnolia Mae. William M. Conner, Jon Kuyper, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Marie Savare, Michael Lesslie, BRON’s Aaron L. Gilbert and Creative Wealth Media’s Jason Cloth will executive produce. The co-producers are Raymond Phathanavirangoon (Apprentice) and Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul (Mother).
The film tells the true story of the rescue of twelve boys and their soccer coach from a flooded, impenetrable cave system in Thailand in 2018. Thai families, the government, and a community of farmers and neighbors came together alongside volunteers from around the world to get them out of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in Chiang Rai Province. Among the volunteers were veteran British cave divers John Volanthen, Richard Stanton, Jason Mallinson, Chris Jewell, Josh Bratchley, Connor Roe, and Vernon Unsworth; Australian cave diver Dr. Richard Harris and Thai native Thanet Natisri. The harrowing 18-day ordeal made headlines around the world. Thirteen Lives shares their story.
Mortensen portrays Richard Stanton, who specializes in rescues through the Cave Rescue Organization and the British Cave Rescue Council. In 2019 he was honored with George Medal, the second-highest civilian award for bravery. Previously he had been made an MBE for his cave diving rescue accomplishments. Mortensen is represented by UTA, Rawlins Company and Stuart Rosenthal of GGSSC.
Farrell portrays John Volanthen, a veteran cave diver who specializes in cave exploration and underwater rescue. He is part of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue, and the British Cave Rescue Council. He was honored with George Medal, the second-highest civilian award for bravery. Farrell is represented by CAA, Ilene Feldman Management and attorney Steve Warren.
Edgerton portrays Dr. Richard Harris, an anesthetist and cave diver with over 30 years of experience, who was awarded the “Outstanding Achievement” award at the Australian technical diving conference Oztek, to mark his exceptional contributions to cave diving exploration. In 2017 he was awarded the “Australasian Technical Diver of the Year” at Oztek. He received the Australian of the Year award in 2019, after the rescue. Edgerton is repped by Anonymous Content, WME, Shanahan Management and Hirsch Wallerstein.
The supporting cast includes Sukollawat as former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan; Sajakul plays Anand, a Thai Navy SEAL instrumental in the rescue effort; Boonthanakit plays the Chiang Rai province acting governor Narongsak Osatanakorn; Pansringarm plays General Anuphond; Supapunpinyo portrays the boy’s coach “Ek” Ekkaphon Chanthawong, and Boonyai will portray Thanet Natisri, a groundwater expert contacted by the Thai military, who together helped make the seemingly impossible rescue happen.
The cast also includes Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell, a Diving Officer for the British Cave Rescue Council as well as a member of the Cave Diving Group who has led many overseas cave diving expeditions including leading a team which set the Western Hemisphere cave depth record in 2013. He was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Bateman is represented by CAA, United Agents in the U.K. and attorney Patti Felker.
Paul Gleeson portrays Jason Mallinson, a member of the Cave Rescue Organisation, and British Cave Rescue Council – core International Dive Team. Mallinson is also a member of the Cave Diving Group – the oldest amateur technical and cave diving organization in the world. He was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Gleeson is represented by RGM Artists.
Lewis Fitz-Gerald will appear as Vernon Unsworth, a British rescue worker and diver who was a key member of the rescue team. Fitz-Gerald is represented by Shanahan Management.