Interview with Colin Farrell, Tom Bateman and Sahajak Poo Boonthankit: Thirteen Lives

Ron Howard’s penchant for bringing history to the screen is in full effect in Thirteen Lives, which is now available to stream on Prime Video. In this one, the Apollo 13 The director recreates the events of the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, allowing audiences to understand why it was so dangerous for the boys trapped in a flooded cave – and how exactly the brave divers were able to get them out.

The stars of Thirteen Lives were just as moved by the gripping true story as it unfolded as viewers around the world, so reliving the tense moments from another perspective was a unique experience. Colin Farrell and Tom Bateman play two of the divers who have traveled to help, while Thai actor Sahajak “Poo” Boonthankit (Handful of Revenge) plays Governor Narongsak.

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Related: Thai Cave Rescue gets a detailed and captivating story in thirteen lives

Screen Rant talked to Bateman, Farrell and Boonthankit about how they experienced the events of Thirteen Lives in real time before reliving them on the set of the film.


Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Viggo Mortensen in Thirteen Lives
Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Viggo Mortensen in Thirteen Lives

Screen rate: What movie ; what a story. I remember what happened, but I feel like the movie just elicited so many positive feelings for me of selflessness. Do you remember when it happened? And what stood out to you the most in this story?

Tom Bateman: I think the first [time] what I really got into was when they found the boys. I remember thinking, “These boys were stuck in the cave, and when did they find them.” And then it became that everyday, checking the news to find out how they were doing. And I just remember the beauty of the moment they said, “They took them out.” Everyone was running around, and that’s all everyone was talking about back then. It was a very special beautiful moment.

Because, usually with news, you’re not really bound by joy. You are bound by bad things. “Oh my God, did you see that horrible thing? This awful thing. I think I can count on maybe on the one hand how many times you have a story like this, that just makes you happy and full of joy and hope and wanting to be a better person.

Colin Farrell: And that was the problem, right? That you were caught between the catastrophe and the potential of what actually happened, because we saw it in real time.

So, it was actually a horrible thing going on. And we were stuck in the fear of the present, where it was generally believed that the children were still alive. But we didn’t know if, while we were talking about them alive, they were actually dying. No one knew until the guys joined them and then there was confirmation that they were there. And then there were back and forths; there were some dives going on. But, as Tom said, when the time came they started coming out and the ambulance started disappearing and airlifting them and airlifting them. And information was not shared on who was absent; how many had come out.

And even when the mission started, everything was very swashbuckling. All of a sudden, all the press was pushed back and no one knew exactly what the means were. [by which] they were going to be extracted.

Poo, I want to hear, because I can’t believe we worked together and I’ve never heard of you. I never asked you, because we were all working, so we were involved in this whole filmmaking. How was it for you, man? Were you in the countryside?

Sahajak Poo Boonthankit: Yes, I was. I was in Thailand at the time. But I think it’s very different for me, personally. I always say that I heard that the boys were stuck, and… At first, I was really mad at the boys. “Why did they even go in there? What made you?

And then you found out, “Okay, they weren’t going to come in when it was raining. It rained after they came in.” OK. Five days, six days pass. I say, “Okay, maybe they’re dead.” And now, being Thai, you start to sit in front of your coat and you pray. You turn on your [prayer sticks] and everything, and I hope they make it out okay and alive.

Colin Farrell: Did the whole country do that, you think? The majority?

Sahajak Boonthankit: Yes, I believe so. I believe him. It’s a cultural thing.

And then on the seventh, eighth, ninth day, I say, “Wait, I have four kids. What if one of them was in there?” Now it gets really intense. Then you hear people coming from all over the world to help, and I can’t even do anything. I don’t know how to dive. I can not do anything. So I’m just sitting there shaking, praying, hoping. And once they got out, once we heard the kids were okay, it was a big relief.

But it wasn’t until I read the script that I understood the inner workings of everything, and all hairs stood on end. It was amazing.

Because I’m a diver, I’m like, “Why can’t they just dive in and take them out?” I did not understand. And then, when you watch the film, you say to yourself: “Okay”.

Colin Farrell: Not sure.

Tom Bateman: Do you do normal diving or cave diving?

I’ve been cave diving – not like this. Colin, I take it you’re not going to keep your certification?

Colin Farrell: Ash, it’s a proven fact that your balls are bigger than mine. Because two guys asked me, “When you finish the movie, are you going cave diving?” And I said, “Absolutely not.

I mean, they built these extravagant cave systems. There were four or five different networks based on the order of the Tham Luang cave system. There were pinch points and pieces falling off and icicles and stuff. It was tight in there, and we had safety divers and all that, but you’re still in the water and you’re still looking up, and there’s a roof over your head.

Tom, you found that sometimes uncomfortable, didn’t you? I mean, I really did.

Tom Bateman: Thank you very much for that. One of my favorite memories, though, is remembering you and me together – I think it was Viggo, you, me, Joel and Paul. And we all got stuck in the middle. The camera-

Colin Farrell: Disaster. And I’ve got Viggo’s fin in my fucking face, and someone’s pushing me from behind.

Tom Bateman: Exactly. Paul fell asleep on my leg. But I remember coming out of it and that beautiful moment [where] I think we took to each other, like, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fine. I don’t want to go back there anymore.” They’re like, “Okay guys, reset, you’re off again.” No, I don’t want to.

Colin Farrell: And it was a 4-foot dive with 20 security guys in 2.5 feet of water. I found it anxiety-provoking.

The difference between… I had done a little open water scuba diving, but it’s night and day for anything that has a seal on it. I don’t know how they do it. It’s just a very different mentality that I don’t really have. I have a little – I don’t want to diagnose myself with panic syndrome, but the head can go away from me pretty quickly.

Thirteen Lives Synopsis


Colin Farrell, Paul Gleeson and Thira Chutikul in Thirteen Lives
Colin Farrell, Paul Gleeson and Thira Chutikul in Thirteen Lives

A rescue mission is staged in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a flooded underground cave system.

Check out our other interviews with Thirteen Lives’ Ron Howard and Raymond Phathanavirangoonstars Joel Edgerton, Viggo Mortensen and James Teeradon Supapunpinyo and Sukollawat Kanaros Dam and Pattrakorn Tungsupakul.

Next: Every Ron Howard Movie, Ranked

Thirteen Lives is currently available to stream on Prime Video.

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