Ron Howard’s ‘Thirteen Lives’ heads to Queensland

Ron Howard.

Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, based on the Thai caves rescue, is the latest in a string of international projects coming to Australia, due to shoot in the Gold Coast from March.

The Federal Government has splashed $13 million to lure the Imagine Entertainment/MGM project via the Location Incentive Program, with the expectation it will inject $90 million into the economy and create 435 jobs for cast and crew, as well as 3,400 extras. The Queensland government has also provided support via its production attraction program.

Penned by the Oscar-nominated writer William Nicholson (Gladiator), Thirteen Lives will depict the true story of the 2018 Tham Laung cave rescue of a boys’ soccer team, trapped in a cave by heavy rain and flooding.

After the team was stuck for days with no supplies and falling oxygen levels, a group from all over the world came together to to save the boys, including expert divers from Australia and the UK.

The film will be produced by Brian Grazer, P.J. van Sandwijk, Gabrielle Tana and Karen Lunder, and distributed in Australia via Universal Pictures.

It is just one of a number of international projects announced to be heading Down Under in recent weeks, similarly lured via the $400 million Location Incentive Program and Australia’s relative handling of the pandemic. These include Netflix’s Escape From Spiderhead and Pieces of Herthree series for Universal Studio GroupYoung Rock, Joe Exotic and Irreverent; and Mark Williams live-action feature film, Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson, currently shooting in Melbourne.

Howard is familiar with Australian talent and crew; Imagine Entertainment has a joint venture with Animal Logic Entertainment. The director is soon to helm The Shrinking of Treehorn, the first of four live-action animated co-productions between the two companies.

Further, earlier this year, Imagine Entertainment chose Australia to expand its Impact accelerator program internationally.

“Over the years, I’ve both enjoyed and creatively benefitted from collaborations with Australian artists and technicians in front of and behind the camera, from Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Chris Hemsworth to John Seale, Donald McAlpine and Andrew Rowlands and many others,” Howard said.

“From Thirteen Lives to the animated projected I am directing with Animal Logic in Australia, I am excited about the opportunity to film and work in Australia and dramatically expand on that list of collaborators whose sensibilities and work ethic I have long admired and respected.”

In announcing the film, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said: “Thirteen Lives will tell the remarkable story of the effort by many volunteers, including Australians, to undertake an incredibly complex rescue. And I am proud to say that this story will be told here in Australia.”

“In addition to recording this remarkable story for posterity, the production itself will create vital job opportunities and will engage the services of an estimated 300 Australian businesses. 

“I understand this project will also undertake a significant amount of cutting-edge visual effects work here, a great opportunity for our local post, digital and visual effects companies.”