Colin Farrell and Tom Bateman on ‘terrifying’ challenge of shooting Thailand cave rescue film Thirteen Lives

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Farrell and Bateman are among the star-studded cast in the upcoming movie (Picture: Getty/Rex)

Stars of a new film depicting the aquatic rescue of 12 young footballers from a cave in Thailand say it was an ‘honour’ to be a part of the project, despite having difficulty swimming and battling claustrophobia.

Colin Farrell and Tom Bateman said the experience had been ‘terrifying’ but ‘extraordinary’ and praised those involved, both living and dead.

Thirteen Lives follows the expedition to save the youngsters and their coach, who became trapped after the cave flooded in 2018.

The film stars Farrell and Viggo Mortensen as divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton respectively.

In an interview discussing the film, Mortensen and Farrell praised the ‘selfless’ and ‘multifaceted’ effort to rescue the boys.

Speaking about preparation for the roles, Mortensen said it had been ‘crucial’ to have the divers on set to supervise.

Viggo Mortensen during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 23, 2022
Viggo Mortensen plays one of the British divers, Richard Stanton (Picture: Getty)
Thai military bring water pumps to the cave on July 6, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
The Thai military were involved in the attempt to rescue a youth football team and their coach who got stranded in a cave in 2018 (Picture: Getty)

‘Whenever you’re underwater [in] caves, it’s dangerous,’ he shared. ‘So I think all the actors, we listened very carefully to what they were showing and telling us and watched what they did very carefully and everybody worked hard.

‘Everybody pulled together… and that reflected the real rescue and that it was a very selfless, team-oriented effort.’

The Lord of the Rings star also said that filming was ‘sometimes too real’ as there were some ‘very tight spots underwater’.

Farrell, who most recently starred as Penguin in The Batman, also admitted his own personal issues.

Tom Bateman
Actor Tom Bateman is also in the cast, alongside Joel Edgerton (Picture: Getty)

‘They said you’ve done work with children… then you throw water into the mix as well, and I can’t really swim. It’s a different world beneath the surface of the water.

‘I just felt like I was one spoke of many in a story that was so multifaceted that the burden and also the honour, were one and the same and that was what we were telling.’

However, he called the film ‘a great gift’ and continued: ‘I’ve done various things in my career but to be part of something that… in a time where the world seems to be living under greater and greater division, was really about these different people from different nationalities, different cultural backgrounds coming together for a common purpose, and one that was so terrifying, it was just a great gift.

‘We felt that spirit of collaboration the whole way throughout the shoot, and that was just a joy – apart from how nervous I was in the water every day. As Viggo said, it was as controlled an environment as could be but, you know, water’s wet no matter how much control you have or don’t have.

Farrell stars as cave diver John Volanthen (Picture: Getty)
British cave-diver John Volanthen removes his diving suit after walking out from Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 28, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand
The real-life John Volanthen outside Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand on June 28, 2018 (Picture: Getty)

‘It’s pretty extraordinary that we were able to give him the opportunity to do the things that we were given the opportunity to do.’

He added: ‘It was quite amazing. I’m claustrophobic so I struggled pretty much every day but I still vividly remember the last dive was one of my last days and I loved this experience very, very much but, my God, I was happy to get out of that.

‘The guys doing it, even after everything we’ve done, I cannot believe what they did, and to be a small part of telling their story is a real honour.’

Director Ron Howard, also present, couldn’t help replying: ‘Funny, you didn’t mention your claustrophobia in your audition.’

Three British cave-divers, Richard William Stanton (2nd-L), Robert Charles Harper (3rd-L) and John Volanthen (R) arrive at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park near the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai on June 27, 2018 to help in the rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach.
Cave-divers Richard William Stanton (2nd-L), Robert Charles Harper (3rd-L) and John Volanthen (R) arrive in June 2018 to help the rescue efforts, ultimately proving successful (Picture: LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)
The Wild Board football team posing on the anniversary of their rescue (Picture: JITTRAPON KAICOME/AFP via Getty Images)

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In 2019, following the ordeal, Mr Stanton and Mr Volanthen were both presented with the George Medal, the highest British civilian bravery honour, for their roles in the rescue mission.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16 and who were members of the Wild Boars youth football team, had cycled with their coach to the caves to explore when they became marooned inside.

Thirteen Lives releases in select US cinemas on July 29 and streams exclusively on Amazon Prime Video from August 5.

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