‘Thirteen Lives’: Colin Farrell Transformed His Body and Suffered Frequent Panic Attacks While Filming Cave Dive Scenes

Colin Farrell’s acting career has seen a lot of ups and downs. But in recent years, the 46-year-old’s filmography has varied wildly from commercial fare like The Batman to acclaimed indies such as After Yang.

Farrell’s versatility is even met by his commitment to each project. In fact, for his latest role in Amazon Prime Video’s Thirteen Lives, Farrell put himself through the wringer.

Colin Farrell stars in the harrowing true story of ‘Thirteen Lives’

In Thirteen Lives, directed by Ron Howard, Farrell stars as British diver Johan Volanthen opposite Viggo Mortensen’s Rick Stanton. In the summer of 2018, the pair of real-life heroes discovered 12 young junior association soccer team members and their assistant coach. They group had become trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand.

Due to heavy rainfall and rising water levels, the group could not escape. Worldwide rescue efforts rallied around them. In the end, more than 10,000 people, including divers, rescue workers, law enforcement, and military forces were involved in the rescue.

So given the real-life event was quite the news story at the time, Thirteen Lives has a lot to live up to. Judging by the film’s 87% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Howard and his cast and crew delivered a worthy film adaptation.

Colin Farrell wasn’t diver John Volanthen’s first choice to play him

For much of his early career, Farrell was positioned as a more traditional leading man. But of late, both Hollywood movies and independent films have given him a chance to prove himself to be a gifted character actor. Still, Volanthen admitted he wasn’t keen on Farrell playing him in Thirteen Lives. Instead, according to IMDb, he had a different actor in mind.

Apparently, the real-life Volanthen hoped Rowan Atkinson would take the part. But with that actor largely known for his comedic work, Howard explained they weren’t “making that kind of movie” and opted for Farrell instead.

Volanthen reportedly claimed since he’s not a “movie buff,” he wasn’t aware of Farrell. But hopefully, he came around upon seeing Farrell’s performance in Thirteen Lives.

Colin Farrell found cave diving to be ‘terrifying’

For his role in the movie, Farrell reportedly got SCUBA re-certified. He shaved his head and committed to long-distance running to prepare for his diving scenes. The actor got into such great shape that he ran the Brisbane Marathon.

Despite all that preparation, the actor told Entertainment Tonight he wasn’t ready for the experience of filming those underwater scenes:

Collin Farrell films a cave diving scene for 'Thirteen Lives'
Thirteen Lives actor Collin Farrell films a cave diving scene | Prime Video via Youtube

“It was scary. … They built a really impressive network of caves. It was about four or five different caves that were based on the topography of the caves, the Tham Luang caves in Thailand, and they filled them full of water, and we’d go down and there was no up.

There’s a lot to be said for being able to look up in water and see the surface, so when you can’t and there’s actually a ceiling over your head, and there’s no air at all, it just wreaks havoc on my mind.”

Farrell even admitted to having panic attacks underwater. While on set, The Batman star even asked one of the safety divers which movie he’d worked on was the most dangerous set. It was then Farrell realized Thirteen Lives was by far the most dangerous.

Thankfully, the actor made it through production to see the film’s release in select theaters and now on Amazon Prime Video.

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