Tom Bateman has revealed the claustrophobia he suffered while filming Ron Howard’s film Thirteen Lives telling the story of the real-life rescue of 12 Thai boys and their coach from deep inside the Tham Luang caves.
Bateman told the BBC how he had to use meditation to cope with the conditions, and even got stuck underwater himself at one point during filming.
The British actor plays Chris Jewell, a British computer software consultant and expert cave diver who joined the rescue mission in northern Thailand in June 2018, after the boys went into the caves after football practice and got trapped by flood water. Their plight was monitored tirelessly around the world until, after 18 days, they were brought out by an international team, supported by thousands of volunteers at the site.
Of the filming process on set in Queensland, Australia, directed by double Oscar winner Ron Howard, Bateman told the BBC: “Every single day was a challenge for me. I didn’t quite realise how it made you feel… I suffer greatly from claustrophobia and I did meditate a lot.”
On one occasion, Bateman got stuck underwater for about seven minutes while guiding a stunt double through a narrow passage, when he got wedged between rocks.
“I can remember feeling really hot and thinking, ‘I’m underwater, but I’m sweating. I could just see my heart rate going up and up and up [on a pulse monitor].
“But the beautiful gift of it was overcoming that… it’s all in your head. It was a really safe environment, so getting over that hurdle of ‘I can do this’ is a small victory each time you do it.”
Besides Bateman, Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Paul Gleeson star as the divers who guided the boys through the narrow passages, and the actors had to replicate the conditions endured by the real-life divers.
“The cast definitely all felt fear at various times,” Ron Howard told the BBC.
Thirteen Lives is released in cinemas on Friday July 29 and launches on Amazon Prime Video on Friday August 5.