In an industry where enduring creative collaborations are often as fragile as the movie business itself, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer now occupy a singular place in the annals of Hollywood history.
For 35 years, the Oscar-winning director-producer team (A Beautiful Mind) have been telling epic stories under the banner of their company Imagine Entertainment — from features to TV dramas and comedies and more recently documentaries and nonfiction series.
Whatever the genre or format, their projects share connective tissue: They are often stories that document how ordinary people are capable of extraordinary acts.
In the spirit of classic Imagine movies as Backdraft (1991) and Apollo 13 (1995), Howard and Grazer have added another epic story to their canon in Amazon Studios/United Artists’ Thirteen Lives — a narrative re-telling of the 2018 real-life rescue of a Thai soccer team after a rainstorm trapped them inside the Tham Luang cave for 18 days.
A team of world-class divers (played by actors Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton and Viggo Mortensen, among others) is assembled to navigate perilous cave networks in order to rescue the boys, and their daring methods would prove as audacious as they are life-saving.
In a recent THR Presents conversation, powered by Vision Media, Howard and Grazer reflected on making Thirteen Lives and the heartening response the film has enjoyed since its July 2022 release.
“What really knocked me out was how open audiences were to a movie [where] the first 10 minutes are subtitled,” says Howard of telling large swaths of this story in Thai. “It was the highest-testing movie I think we’ve ever had. People were excited about the authenticity. This event is so recent and vitally significant as it relates to Thailand … their leadership and their culture.”
For Grazer’s part, producing a narrative version of a story that not only received global coverage but also documentary treatment in the 2021 Nat Geo film The Rescue was about “filling in emotional moments that couldn’t really be captured in a documentary,” he says. “It’s been very gratifying in that regard to have people say … ‘Wow, I didn’t know how they survived.’ There was a level of ingenuity; the physics of [the rescue] were rather remarkable.”
Howard and Grazer also reflected on their partnership and their first-ever meeting, which took place in 1979 on the Paramount lot when the latter shouted “Ron!” out of an open window and invited the then-fledgling director to lunch to swap ideas. “I knew right away, whatever he wanted to do, through his talent and will, he would achieve that,” says Grazer.
Howard, who by then had achieved icon status as a young actor in both The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, admits Grazer’s enthusiasm and passion were infectious and still novel to him. “I’d never had a ‘Hollywood lunch’ before,” laughs Howard. “I was really fascinated by his intellect, his ideas. He had a perspective on the business that I didn’t have, even though I’d grown up in it.”
This edition of THR Presents is sponsored by Amazon Prime Video.
This story originally appeared on HollywoodReporter