Although I can’t find a link proving it, I remember an apocryphal tale circulating 17 years ago. Shortly after 9/11, some aspiring screenwriter was said to have approached Robert De Niro in a New York restaurant, pitching him on a 9/11 movie in which De Niro would play Mayor Rudy Giuliani. De Niro supposedly threw him out of the restaurant.
When a tragedy happens on a certain scale, a movie depicting it becomes almost inevitable. Rushing to put a movie into production immediately following the tragedy, however, is ghoulish and tacky. It betrays a lack of care about the human cost of whatever occurred and a vulture-like desire to peck out the profit in the bones of the dead. Although luckily this week’s Thai cave rescue mission resulted in only one death (and not that of a child), it still feels uncomfortably soon for there to be two competing movies about it in the works.
Michael Scott, the Office-ly named CEO of Pure Flix, the Christian faith-based company behind the God’s Not Dead franchise, was the first to swoop in, announcing his intended film project on Tuesday–one day after the rescue was completed. Scott partly lives in Thailand, so he had been on the scene of the rescue for several days. Imagine that. While most of the world was focused on the safe return of 12 young boys and their soccer coach, Scott was already thinking in terms of story structure, character arcs, and of course, profit.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Scott said he has spoken to some of the 90 divers involved in the rescue mission and, via his Thai contacts, some of the family members of boys who were trapped in the cave, though not the boys themselves as they are still hospitalized.”
Too bad the boys were still hospitalized and couldn’t speak to Michael Scott for his movie! Obviously, there’s a sensationalistic aspect of how all news covers these types of events, but the public requires reporters at the scenes of such stories to keep everyone informed. The public does not require producers at the scene to keep everyone eventually maybe entertained.
Complicating matters, one day after Scott announced his project, a second film was announced. Crazy Rich Asians and Now You See Me helmer Jon M. Chu is attached to direct a competing depiction of the Thai cave rescue. On Twitter, Chu spoke of his aim to bring authenticity and respect to the story, and prevent whitewashing.
I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story! No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happen or we’ll give them hell. There’s a beautiful story abt human beings saving other human beings. So anyone thinking abt the story better approach it right & respectfully.
— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) July 11, 2018
It’s a nice idea. At least with Chu’s involvement, it’s unlikely Scarlett Johansson will get cast in any of the lead roles. However, it would have been just as good an idea if it had been announced a respectful distance later. If any of the rescued children had died during the rescue, it would be in very bad taste to announce a movie about the rescue so soon. Just because a bunch of kids only almost died, and one ex-Navy diver actually did, shouldn’t make it any different.