Ron Howard On Getting His Feature Take Of Tham Luang Cave Rescue ‘Thirteen Lives’ Across The Finish Line & Whether Event Dramas Are Extinct – Crew Call Podcast

Ron Howard on making 'Thirteen Lives'
Ron Howard (right), on set of 'Thirteen Lives' Everett Collection

There was a great rush by Hollywood for the rights to the young soccer players, their coach and the divers involved in the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue in Thailand. Ron Howard’s feature take, Thirteen Lives, made it to the finish line first at MGM, and the 2x Oscar winning filmmaker tells us how that came to be on today’s Crew Call.

It helped that the pic’s producer P.J. van Sandwijk was also behind the documentary about the same subject, The Rescue, made by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. Howard was struck by the script by 2x Oscar nominee William Nicholson which provided surprising twists and turns not known by many.

“My documentary experience in recent years was going to serve me well, and it did,” says Howard about his approach to the feature version of the widely covered media story, “I didn’t want it to feel like it was staged, but captured.”

Another challenge for Howard entailed making a movie that was largely in Thai, that completely embraced their culture.


“I wanted Thai audiences; if they didn’t know who directed it, I’d want them to think a Thai (filmmaker) directed it,” adds the A Beautiful Mind Oscar winning director and producer.

“It was a big story and so worthy of being told from various different vantage points and modes; if I could be one of them, I wanted to,” adds Howard.

Howard’s career has been built on making blockbuster event dramas, i.e. Ransom, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and The Da Vinci Code — however, in a box office marketplace that’s ruled by comic book movies, has that genre become extinct?

Answers Howard: “I think we’re still learning as we go here. It’s being redefined. I do believe in it. I do believe that adult dramas especially when they transport an audience to a place and create suspense and are engaging enough, are entertaining enough people. If priced properly, they can be a reasonable bet, and I think most studio execs feel that way. I’m not sure any studios execs are ready to make any declarations about any drama, outside of horror which is really working and tentpole fantasies, which are working; animation works. That’s sort of four quadrant or date night content. I don’t think anyone has given up on the idea or pretends to really know. At the end of the day the audience is going to define it.”

Howard also talks about his upcoming Disney+ documentary about Jim Henson, his first animated movie The Shrinking of Treehorn at Netflix and whether there’s another western movie left in him after The Missing.

Listen to our conversation with Howard below:

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