The dramatic rescue of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave complex this week transfixed news viewers around the world for more than two weeks, and the story is now headed for a retelling by Hollywood.
But two days after divers freed the last four of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach, there’s already drama about the movie’s casting and depiction of the real-life events.
One rescue hero has already put his hand up for a role: Outgoing Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osatanakorn told The Guardian he wants to play himself in a movie of the story.
Two rival production companies are looking to put together movies about the Thai soccer team’s rescue, which is reminiscent of the 2010 rescue of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for 69 days.
That real-life saga was turned into 2015 movie The 33 starring Antonio Banderas.
Thailand’s government and navy, whose SEAL unit led the rescue, have selected Ivanhoe Pictures to develop a film that would be directed by Jon M Chu, according to a statement from Ivanhoe’s president, John Penotti.
“I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story!” Mr Chu, who was born in California and has Chinese heritage, tweeted in response.
Ivanhoe Pictures, which has offices in the United States and in Asia, focuses on Asia and North America. It is the co-producer of the upcoming film Crazy Rich Asians, based on the novel by Kevin Kwan and directed by Chu.
“There’s a beautiful story about human beings saving other human beings. So anyone thinking about the story better approach it right & respectfully,” Mr Chu added.
I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story! No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happen or we’ll give them hell. There’s a beautiful story abt human beings saving other human beings. So anyone thinking abt the story better approach it right & respectfully.
— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) July 11, 2018
The other company looking to develop a movie on the event is US-based Pure Flix, which specialises in Christian and family films.
Pure Flix co-founder Michael Scott, who lives in Thailand part of the year, said producers from his company were on the ground interviewing rescue workers for a potential film.
He said his wife grew up with Samarn Poonan, the former Thai navy SEAL who died during the mission.
“It’s Thai, Westerners, Europeans, Aussies – people from all over the world who helped bring these kids to safety,” Scott told Reuters. “There is a worldwide appeal which I think will inspire millions across the globe.”
Like the Chilean rescue, the Thai drama showcases real-life courage in the face of harrowing circumstances, said Mike Medavoy, the Oscar-nominated producer of The 33.
“It’s about the triumphs of individuals and groups of human beings over tragedy,” Medavoy said. “It’s a terrific story.”
Bringing the Thai drama to the screen faces hurdles, however.
First, filmmakers need to secure the rights from each of the boys’ families, the coach, and any rescuers they want to portray in order to get their first-hand accounts of what happened. The boys range in age from 11 to 16.
And replicating the rescue on screen could also be costly.
The 33 was filmed in Colombia and Chile and produced for about $US24 million. A movie about the Thai rescue could be made for less, Medavoy said, because filming in Thailand is cheaper.