Thirteen Lives Viggo Mortensen Colin Farrell Ron Howard
Director Ron Howard on the set of THIRTEEN LIVES, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Vince Valitutti / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen both had quite “terrifying” experiences while playing two of the real-life divers who pulled off the world-famous 2018 Thai cave rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach in Ron Howard’s new Amazon Prime Video drama Thirteen Lives.

For Colin Farrell, the experience was particularly challenging, considering that, by his own admission, “I can’t really swim.”

“They say don’t work with children or animals — don’t throw water into that mix as well,” Farrell, who played rescue diver John Volanthen.

“I can’t really swim. There’s an element of not swimming in what we’re doing — something about scuba diving is, you kind of accept the process of not drowning, but submerging,” arrell said. “It’s a different world beneath the surface of the water.”

He spoke at a press junket for the release of the Thirteen Lives trailer alongside Howard, Mortensen and others.

Mortensen recalled working closely with Rick Stanton, the real-life diver he plays in the movie, in order to understand not only how to dive like him, but how to be safe while doing it.

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“There were several moments for all of us, I think, where you went, ‘Oh, wow. What have I gotten myself into?'” Mortensen laughed.

The actor’s scariest moment came when one of his oxygen tanks shut off while he was underwater, briefly depriving him of air. He remembered Stanton’s advice to “just be calm.”

“Don’t freak out, because you can drown in a few seconds. Once you freak out and you swallow a little water, you’re done. Even though it’s a movie and you’re in this place, nobody can get to you fast enough,” Mortensen recalled. “There are valves, right? And it rolled on one of my tanks as I was trying to squeeze through this pinch point, and it just shut off. I was like, ‘Fuck, no air.'”

Following Stanton’s advice, he calmly reached around to his other oxygen tank and switched over his mouthpiece in order to turn his air supply back on.

“It seemed like it took forever. It probably didn’t take that long, but I got it done, and then I managed to get through this tight spot. But I really had a moment there where I started to breathe fast,” Viggo Mortensen added. “It’s very dark. You can easily get very frightened in a hurry. Like I said, breathing, breathing. That was the key.”

For Howard, one of the most important parts of making Thirteen Lives was respecting Thai culture and honoring the Thai people who made the real-life rescue possible.

“It was a really exciting creative opportunity for me, and I knew I would learn a lot too, about Thai culture,” Howard said. “I knew that was going to be a cinematic challenge that I was excited to meet. I knew that the acting opportunities were going to be very emotional and focused. And I also knew that a large percentage of this story was going to be in Thai, and we needed to reflect Thai culture and these characters in very nuanced, very connected, contemporary, thoughtful ways.”

“This story is very, very important to Thai culture, and understandably so,” he added. “It’s a story they should be incredibly proud of because of the way the Thai government and Thai leadership actually made this rescue possible.”

Watch the trailer for Thirteen Lives below.

Main Image: Director Ron Howard on the set of THIRTEEN LIVES, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film.