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The Ron Howard-directed feature is based on the true story of the rescue mission to save a football team trapped in a cave in Thailand in 2018.
Farrell plays John Volanthen, one of the divers involved in the rescue. At the film’s premiere on Thursday (28 July), the actor admitted that he struggled with filming some of the underwater scenes.
“It was scary,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “I’m not a great swimmer anyway, not that we were swimming, not that we were treading water — we had to stay on the surface — but they built a really impressive network of caves.”
Farrell then explained that the set design was based on the actual structure of the caves, making the experience feel frighteningly realistic: “They filled them full of water, and we’d go down and there was no up.”
Though the Batman star credits the crew for being supportive and ensuring that everything was safe, Farrell then said that he’d had panic attacks while being submerged for the scenes.
“Man, I had panic attacks underwater, that's a new experience,” he noted. “A panic attack underwater is a new experience for me.”
Another of the film’s stars, Viggo Mortensen, has also spoken about the pressures of the water scenes.
“All of a sudden I couldn’t breathe,” the Green Book actor told People earlier this week. “It seemed like a long time, but it was only a matter of seconds. I panicked.”
Thirteen Lives will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime on 5 August.