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19 Aug, 2022

“13 Lives” Thai actor hopes film delivers a Greater Good for Thailand and the world

Bangkok – The hugely positive global reaction to the movie “13 Lives” will be a marketing bonanza for Thai travel & tourism but one of its lead Thai actors says he truly hopes it will go beyond that and deliver a greater good for Thai society and humanity at large.

In an interview last week, Thira “Um” Chutikul, 32, who plays the role of Royal Thai Navy Seals Commander Kiet, said the movie has opened up opportunities to make more productive use of films to convey social messages that bring people together, and not just in times of crises.

The superb technical aspects of the production, especially the work of Chief Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom has also raised hopes of a possible first Thai Oscar win, which will lead to more films being shot in Thailand.

The actor with his parents Mr Kobsak and Mrs Laksasubha, and the writer.

Said Mr Thira, “The movie does bring out the best side of humanity. This better side does exist and it’s a shame that it usually comes out during times of great despair. It is only when something bad happens that people come together. But we all have it in us to be like that anyway. I am not sure exactly what wider message can be conveyed but if individually people can come together to inspire each other and if everyone does their part to the best of their abilities, just like in the movie, then collectively, it will make a difference.”

He said “13 Lives” communicated important messages for the young generation. “Just do your best. Like me in my role, I didn’t think was an actor. I considered myself a fan of the movie. I just did my part. I didn’t worry about what others are working on but I just did my best. This can work for anyone. It can be just basic things, like the way you treat your mum and dad.”

Mr Thira complimented director Ron Howard for depicting the unifying aspects of Thailand. “It’s nice that he chose to tell that side. In reality, it’s not like that. Yes, there is that side to the Thai people but there are also softer sides which have been accurately shown.”

Mr Thira was first approached in Dec 2020. After screen tests in Thailand, he got a call in January 2021 to fly to Australia. The movie was shot over 3.5 months at warehouses in the Gold Coast, Queensland. The set required heavy-duty technology and electronics unavailable in Thailand. Only a few days of shooting were in the vicinity of the actual Tham Luang cave. Six of the Wild Boar football team boys, those who had speaking parts, were also flown out. The rest were sourced in Australia.

Now in his 10th year as an actor, Mr Thira has completed seven foreign movies and is now working on two local Thai series.

He says he is not sure if “13 Lives” will be a commercial success. The public still seems to have a preference for movies with “heroes in a cape,” a reference to the Marvel comics superheroes. Much will depend on how well it does at the Oscars. But, he says, “so far, the news is good as the critics have liked the movie.”

Mr Thira voiced hope that in this era of overwhelming change, not all of it for the better, such powerful films promoting hope, teamwork, sacrifice and unity can be a part of the solution. “But it will not be easy. One recurring topic is about how boring the soap-operas are becoming. But film-makers looking at different plots are often told, ‘we like this but we can’t do it’. One of my directors has done movies before but he also has to do soaps because that’s where the money is.”

Mr Thira said he himself tried to make a film to tell the story of life in slums, but was told to get off his high horse and rejig the plot as a love story, using the slums just as a background. “That’s not the story in the I wanted to tell but I was told it would never work as slum dwellers don’t want to be reminded of their own hardships. They want escapism.”

However, he sees signs of change, as film-makers try to bridge that critical gap between entertainment and social messaging with different ways of storytelling. He notes the trend towards greater political correctness, gender and ethnic equality and cultural sensitivity in both films and series.

He thinks it is long overdue for Thai screenwriters to start experimenting with new ways to tell stories. Thailand’s pool of hardware talent in terms of technical crews is already world-class. It just needs to be matched on the software side with actors, writers and others, similar to the Koreans and Filipinos, he said.

Mr Thira said the number of Thais working on foreign films is very small and needs to grow. This will happen if “13 Lives” does well at the Oscars. While Cinematographer Sayombhu stands the best chance, there is potential for additional awards.

“I really believe and hope that ‘13 Lives’ leads to something better,” he said, when asked about the potential for not just Thai but ASEAN films and film-makers to raise their profile on the global stage. “Our (ASEAN) culture and traditions are so rich and deep. Brand-name actors (in the West) are now reaching out to Asia and choosing new storylines. Hollywood knows it has to tailor its products to attract the Asian viewers.

“But the studios have to back it. And their main interest is money.”

Vanity Fair story on how the film was shot.

Full credits..

About the movie

Sixteen thought-promoting takeaways from “13 Lives”