Netflix is partnering with SK Global Entertainment to co-produce a miniseries about last summer’s sensational cave rescue mission in Northern Thailand.
The deal for the project was unveiled Thursday by Thailand’s Culture Ministry, which said the life rights to the 12 young boys who were saved from the cave, along with their soccer coach, were sold to SK Global.
SK Global previously had discussed making a feature film about the rescue through its Ivanhoe Pictures division, the production banner behind Jon Chu’s 2018 hit romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians. With Netflix now on board, the project has evolved into an original scripted miniseries.
The dramatic events that took place in Northern Thailand sparked interest in Hollywood before they were even over. In the weeks following the rescue, as many as five separate movie adaptations were under discussion, including potential projects from Warner Brothers, Universal, Ivanhoe and Pure Flix Entertainment, along with an indie film, The Cave, from Thai-Irish director Tom Waller.
The real-life story indeed has the feel of a Hollywood thriller: 12 young boys and their soccer coach wander into a cave seeking innocent adventure, but soon become trapped by a sudden surge of flood water two miles beneath the earth — with the world then banding together to get them out before torrential rains make a rescue impossible.
Recognizing the wave of interest in the story, the Thai government helped set up a registered entity last year — 13 Tham Luang Company — to field offers and carefully manage the young soccer players’ interests. A government official on Thursday said the soccer players and coach would each receive about 3 million Thai baht (just under $100,000) as part of the SK Global deal. They also will be restricted from giving future interviews about their experience.
When contacted by THR on Friday, a representative for Netflix confirmed the partnership, but declined to disclose further details. “We can confirm that we are working on an original scripted miniseries with SKE Global and 13 Tham Luang Company Limited to bring the incredible story of the Thai cave rescue to audiences worldwide on Netflix,” the spokesperson said.
Aside from the Netflix/SK Global series, only one of the previously announced cave rescue projects has gone into production.
Tom Waller’s indie feature, The Cave, wrapped production on location in Thailand last December. Currently in postproduction, the film is targeting a release in July, on the one-year anniversary of the soccer team’s rescue. The Cave was packaged by CAA’s media finance group, and it is produced by the agency’s former China chief, Jonah Greenberg, now an independent producer.
Unlike the Netflix project, which appears like it will focus on its direct access to the boys at the heart of the story, The Cave is said to recreate the rescue from the perspective of the mission’s many unsung heroes.
SK Global is an independent finance and production company based in Santa Monica and Singapore. The company, which spans both Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Ivanhoe, is ramping up its film and TV output with range of planned titles for China, India, Latin America, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand — in addition to the U.S. Recently announced projects include The Baccarat Queen, the true story of a young Chinese woman who turned a childhood talent into a successful gambling run; and Billion Dollar Whale, about the Malaysia money-laundering scandal.