Thirteen Lives: 7 Things To Know About The Tham Luang Cave Rescue Movie

Viggo Mortensen in Daylight
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Everyone loves a thrilling true-life survival story, right? Well, in not much time at all, movie goers and subscribers to a certain streaming service will get to watch Ron Howard’s upcoming biographical drama, Thirteen Lives, which will tell the story of one of the most harrowing and well-known rescue missions in recent memory: the Tham Luang cave rescue.

But, before you watch what is being considered one of the 2023 Best Picture Oscar frontrunners, there are a few things you’ll probably want to know about the upcoming picture, including who will be in it, when it will be released, and just how much the cast and crew put into telling the unforgettable story of just how far complete strangers will go to save a group of teenagers from an untimely death. Let’s dive in and check out Thirteen Lives, shall we?

Some of the best movies ever are on Amazon Prime

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Thirteen Lives Will Be Released Theatrically And On Prime Video In August 2022

Although an exact date has not yet been revealed for Thirteen Lives, Ron Howard’s upcoming biographical survival drama is slated to open in theaters and on Amazon Prime Video at some point in August 2022, according to Variety. The film, which is being released by MGM (which was purchased by Amazon for $8.5 billion in March 2022), will have a limited theatrical run shortly before it makes it streaming debut on the popular platform.

Thirteen Lives was scheduled to open in theaters on November 18, 2022 along with other awards season hopefuls, but will now become one of one of the major summer tentpoles available to anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Viggo Mortensen in Green Book; Colin Farrell in The Gentlemen; Joel Edgerton in Gringo

(Image credit: Universal Pictures; Miramax; Amazon Studios)

Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, And Joel Edgerton Lead The Thirteen Lives Cast

Over the years, Ron Howard has pulled together some pretty amazing casts in movies like The Paper, Apollo 13, Cocoon, A Beautiful Mind, and countless others. Considering that, it should come as no surprise that Thirteen Lives will feature not only a great all-star cast, but also a large international ensemble of actors to help tell the true-life story of heroism and survival.

In March 2021, Deadline revealed that Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton would be portraying cave and rescue specialist Richard Stanton, cave diver John Volanthen, and anesthetist and cave diver Richard Harris, respectively. The rest of the large cast includes Weir Sukollawat, Thiraphat Sajakul, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Vithaya Pansringarm, Teeradon “James” Supapunpinyo, Nophand Boonyai, Tom Bateman, Paul Gleeson, and Lewis Fitz-Gerald.

Joel Edgerton in It Comes at Night

(Image credit: A24)

Thirteen Lives Chronicles The Events Of The 2018 Tham Luang Cave Rescue

When Thirteen Lives was first announced back in 2020, The Hollywood Reporter revealed the movie will center on the true story of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue operation which became an international media story as rescuers from around the world came together to save 12 young soccer players and their coach who had become trapped in a flooded and impenetrable cave system in Thailand. 

According to CNN, the 12 players and coach of the Wild Boars youth soccer team spent three weeks in the cave from June 23 to July 10, 2018, when the last member of the group, the head coach, was pulled out of the system alive.

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in LOTR

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Viggo Mortensen And Colin Farrell Trained With Divers From The Actual Rescue Operation

With Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell playing two of the lead divers in the Tham Luang cave rescue mission, you would assume they would undergo an intense training program. Instead of training with just any divers, though, the actors worked with some of the rescuers from the actual operation, as Ron Howard told The Hollywood Reporter in May 2022:

So we had a couple of weeks where they were in the water with them every day, emulating it and for that reason, because they’ve done that work — they also volunteered to work on the weekends and whatever was required, so that all of the shots are them — they learned the cave diving techniques and the personalities of the men that they were playing.

But, it wasn’t just Mortensen and Farrell learning the ropes from the accomplished divers, as other members of the Thirteen Lives cast were given special training during prep and on set to get everything down properly.

Bill Paxton, Tom Hanks, and Kevin Bacon in Apollo 13

(Image credit: Universal)

Ron Howard And His Team Built Their Own Artificial Cave And Tunnel System For Thirteen Lives

One of the major obstacles hampering the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue operation was the amount of rain that drenched the area and further flooded the intricate cave system. Because of the issues that could mount due to filming out in the wild, Ron Howard told The Hollywood Reporter (in the same interview from above) that he and his team constructed five different tanks for the shoot with each of those tanks having a different cave and tunnel network to better recreate the actual location.

Even though he shot in artificial caves with high safety standards, Howard described the whole process as a “feat” and compared it to the systems he put in place to film the fire scenes in Backdraft and the famous zero-gravity scenes in his 1995 historical drama, Apollo 13, which were filmed in a KC-135 aircraft commonly referred to as “the vomit comet.” 

Colin Farrell in Widows

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Production On Thirteen Lives Took Place In Australia Throughout 2021

The process of bringing the story of heroism, survival, and the human spirit of those involved in the Tham Luang cave rescue got underway in March 2021 near Brisbane, Australia, according to William Nicholson, the film’s screenwriter, who previously penned scripts for Gladiator, Unbroken, and Everest. This came a few months after Deadline announced that the MGM production would take place in Australia after the government injected $13 million into the project.

MGM logo

(Image credit: MGM)

Thirteen Lives Had The Best Test Screening Scores In MGM’s History

At one point in time, Thirteen Lives was slated to open theatrically in April 2022, but MGM elected to push the movie back in the 2022 movie schedule into the awards season territory after incredibly successful test screenings. According to Deadline, the movie had the best test scores in studio history, though there weren’t a lot of details provided at the time. Considering the titles MGM has released over the years — Gone with the Wind, Rain Main, 2001: A Space Odyssey — it’s beginning to sound like Ron Howard’s movie isn’t one any of us will want to miss.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.