August 16, 2022

Pattrakorn Tungsupakul on ‘Thirteen Lives’ and the Rescue

Tungsupakul brought the idea of the bracelets to the production as another example of paying attention to the local customs. “I asked my friend who studies northern culture at Chiang Mai University, and he said this is a must-have item,” she said. “It’s a signature of passing good luck to a person, giving him a blessing that if you’re going on a dangerous mission, you will be safe.”

Tungsupakul is also one of a handful of female characters in a male-dominated cast — a factor that Ruetaivanichkul, one of the producers, said was crucial to creating balance within the production, which is one of a spate of screen projects, including the 2021 documentary “The Rescue,” about the mammoth effort to save the stranded soccer team and its coach. (The producer P.J. van Sandwijk worked on both “Thirteen Lives” and “The Rescue.”)

“She introduces femininity and the soft side of energy,” Ruetaivanichkul said. “She shows the empathy within the group. That is what Ron emphasized from the very beginning, because otherwise it’s not going to be different from the story in the documentaries that focus on the rescuers. We are trying to do the world-building of Thai culture.”

Tungsupakul and her sister were raised by parents who ran a small business trading construction materials. She graduated from law school, but instead decided to move to Bangkok to pursue a career in acting. Early success on a 2013 series in which she played a rural girl forced to move to Bangkok after her father is murdered made her a star in Thailand. When asked if she was famous, Tungsupakul demurred with a quiet “Yeah,” before adding, “But if I say ‘yes’ then maybe ‘Oh, I’m too much.’”

“Thirteen Lives” is her first international production, one she found challenging when it came to modulating her emotions. She remembers Howard telling her at one point, “‘Ploy, in this scene, please don’t cry. No more tears,’” she said with a laugh. The tears came so easily because the world the production team had recreated in Australia felt so close to home. Tungsupakul was in Bangkok when the rescue was underway, but she remembers being glued to the television, watching the story unfold, positive that no child was going to survive.

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