Ron Howard on ‘Thirteen Lives’ and What It Would Take for Him to Return to Acting

Awards Circuit Podcast: Also on this episode, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" star Angela Bassett discusses the film's big twist; and the Awards Circuit Roundtable.

Ron Howard Headshot
Jeff Lipsky

Though superstition would suggest otherwise, the number “13” has been lucky for Ron Howard. The filmmaker won his first DGA Award for the 1995 hit “Apollo 13,” which documented the troubled 1970 lunar mission. Now he’s earning raves for “Thirteen Lives,” another true-life story about the 2018 effort to rescue a youth football team from the Tham Luang caves in Thailand.

Speaking with the Variety Awards Circuit podcast, Howard discusses the making of “Thirteen Lives.” He admits that he briefly hesitated signing on because he wondered if the films would draw comparisons – not just for their titles: “I did recognize that in a lot of ways it was similar to ‘Apollo 13,’” Howard admits. “But then I began to feel, ‘Well, this is a great story.’ And there are some things that I learned from ‘Apollo 13’ that I can apply to this. But there’s a whole other set of challenges.”

Howard says he also realized there were other themes he wanted to explore – mainly that of volunteerism and “people who did not have to be there taking huge risks – physical, emotional, political, career. Just because they decided it was the right thing.” Listen below:

Howard has now embraced the comparison between his “13” films. He even recently participated in a double bill of “Apollo 13” and “Thirteen Lives” at the Aero Theatre, doing a Q&A between the two movies. Perhaps he needs one more “13” film to complete the trilogy – what about a “Friday the 13th” reboot or sequel?

Howard laughs at the idea. “Well, you know, there’s a certain kind of horror movie that I have not done that I would enjoy doing,” he says. “Probably not ‘Friday the 13th,’ the stalker thing is a little too intense for me.” But he is open to something involving “paranormal, supernatural, you know, monsters. Thing that we kind of know aren’t real.”

Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, “Thirteen Lives” details not only the rescue from the caves, but the people who took part in the effort to help, including farmers willing to flood their lands and divers volunteering for a seemingly impossible mission. Howard says the film ranks as one of his most challenging – but also rewarding – experiences: “I never had a project where there were fewer complaints.”

The story of “Thirteen Lives” and the story of making the film are both emotional, and it’s hard not to get choked up when the filmmaker talks about them. Howard also touches on other topics, including what it would take to get him to return to an acting gig. (Hint: It would probably have to be a project directed by his daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard. And he would completely expect her to make him audition. Laughs Howard, “I’d be a little disappointed if she didn’t.”)

Also on this episode, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” star Angela Bassett discusses her feelings about returning to the franchise after the death of star Chadwick Boseman. And she talks about the shocking twist in the sequel for her character, and how she felt about it at first. But first, the Awards Circuit Roundtable gives its Golden Globe nominations predictions.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, who also co-hosts with Clayton Davis, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.