Social media erupts as Hollywood producers fly down to Thai cave rescue site to plot new movie project
Hollywood has arrived at the foothills of the mountain cave system in Thailand even before one of the world's most daring rescue operations is successfully completed.
As millions around the globe witnessed the rescue operation of 12 young footballers and their coach stranded in a Thailand cave, one thing definitely comes to mind - this would make a great movie. That said, some producers from Hollywood believe in action more than mere sentiment. All the more so because of the potential business opportunity that such a sensational story presents.
The foothills of the Tham Luang mountain cave network in Chiang Rai province saw a US film crew come down to witness one of the world's most daunting rescue missions as it entered its third day. In the final leg of the highly elaborate operation, divers attempted to bring the remaining four boys along with their 25-year-old coach Ekkapol “Aek” Chantawong out of the cave system and into the arms of their beloved relatives who wait desperately at the entrance.
The team became trapped in the dark, muddy cavern on June 23 and have been stranded for over 19 days, and one highly skilled former Thai Navy SEAL has already lost his life trying to save the kids. Over the past two days, the mission was kicked into overdrive by rescue chief Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn, who said that if they waited any longer, the heavy monsoon downpour could leave them stranded until January next year.
All the schoolboys including their coach have been rescued and are now reunited with their families. They are recuperating at a nearby hospital after the harrowing ordeal. Expecting to break the box office, two American movie producers have reached the scene to plot a movie project about the Wild Boars youth soccer team and their coach. They know it is only a matter of time before the story is picked up and it's all about who gets it first.
In a conversation with AAP in Chiang Rai, Pure Flix films managing partner Michael Scott said, “I see this as a major Hollywood film with A-list stars”. As the terminal mission was underway to save the remaining team members, both Scott and co-producer Adam Smith conducted preliminary interviews around the Tham Luang rescue site, talking to various authorities to form a blueprint of what could become an intense Hollywood recreation.
The duo is seeking to grab exclusive rights to the stories of the victims and their families as they interview key players from the team of foreign rescuers and Thai Navy SEALs. They also plan to bring in a screenwriter as soon as possible.
When the pair was asked if their hawkish actions might be seen as inconsiderate at this fragile juncture, Smith replied: “There’s going to be other production companies coming in so we have to act pretty quickly.” A chain of divers rescued the boys and brought them to the surface after guiding them through two-and-half miles of narrow, flooded passages. The schoolboys are aged 11 to 16 years.
The to-and-fro journey takes the highly skilled divers more than 11 hours in total. There are several foreigners who are a part of the rescue team being lead by Thai authorities, including a couple of Australians and anesthetist Dr. Richard Harris from Adelaide, who is an experienced rescue diver.
However, Scott said they are not pressing people over the said interviews as they acknowledge the delicate nature of the rescue missions. He is married to a Thai woman and spends three months every year in Thailand. “I’ve told them once this has died down let’s really sit down and have a more in-depth interview on what’s really happening,” he said.
Describing itself as a Faith and Family production and distribution film company, Scott's firm Pure Flix is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Los Angeles. So far, its biggest success has been God’s Not Dead (2014), which grossed over $70 million worldwide after being produced on a budget of just $2 million. During an interview conducted late Monday, Scott said that the cave rescue story is a perfect project for Pure Flix.
“This just kind of fits our DNA in terms of a really inspirational story,” he said, adding that the story would be centered around the two British divers who first discovered the schoolboys. “It’s got incredible heart, incredible acts of heroism and bravery. It’s just an incredible thing and we think it will inspire millions around the world.”
Scott said the entire ordeal became even more emotional to him when former Thai Navy SEAL and diving expert Saman Kunan lost his life while volunteering as a rescuer. Reportedly, Kunan was a friend of Scott's wife. "This isn't just about a movie, it's about honoring everybody involved, including the soldier who died," he said.
"This was truly a team effort involving Brits, Aussies, Americans and Thais, and the divers told us incredible stories," Scott said. "They had less than five meters' visibility, fought harsh currents and used a buddy system of two divers for each boy rescued. It was a monumental effort."
While Smith, who also heads KAOS Entertainment in Bangkok, said, “It’s apolitical, it has no agenda. Everyone is on the same page and everyone is rooting for them”. According to Scott, once a renowned screenwriter is signed for the film, his firm would start production by the latter half of 2019. That said, during a conversation with CBS News, National Cave Rescue Mission co-ordinator Anmar Mirza said that it would be a challenging task to recreate the rescue into a movie.
“You can’t make a horror movie that would even compare,” he said. “I’ve been involved in cave rescue for 30 years and I cannot even think of one that is this complicated.”
The presence of Hollywood producers and the talks of a movie prompted the Twitterati who lost no time in making their displeasure known.