Jim Warny and his partner Asia Mania during filming at Shannon Airport Picture: Arthur Ellis
THE Clare-based diver who took part in the successful Thailand cave rescue has spoken of the ‘strange and surreal’ sensation of playing himself in a film about the project.
Jim Warny, from Belgium but living in Ennis for the last 15 years, was one of an elite multi-national group of divers that took part in the unprecedented and highly dangerous rescue mission.
On Sunday, he returned to Shannon Airport, scene of his emotional homecoming in July after the cave rescue, to reenact scenes for a new film retelling the story that gripped the world, when 12 young boys and their football coach were rescued from a flooded cave network in Thailand.
He is playing himself in The Cave, written and wirected by Tom Waller, a Thai filmmaker with Irish heritage and on Sunday, the crew recaptured the poignant scenes of Mr Warny’s homecoming and the moment he was reunited with his fiancée and his dad in Shannon Airport.
“It’s a bit strange or a bit surreal but I take it in my stride, you know. It’s very nice and I am happy to tell people what happened there and share the story. It might inspire someone to do something special. Maybe I was a bit naïve about it. Of course, I was anticipating a bit of media but even a bit of media was nerve wrecking for me as I didn’t anticipate a big crowd like that,” he explained.
Mr Warny said he was happy to play himself in the film and just wants the amazing story to be told accurately.
“Who else could play me anyway, with my accent,” he laughed. “You can’t find a stunt man either to go into the caves. It was nice to be in control as it gets so easily out of control with media. I am confident it will portray what I want to portray. And I am sure all the rest of the characters feel the same way.
“With any publicity around this, we take it with huge responsibility and you don’t want to do the story wrong.”
The Clare-based diver was involved in writing parts of the scrips and admitted that reliving the experience was “intense”.
“Yeah, it’s been very hands on for me from the get go, from interviews, script writing and things. You live with it all the time. I was sitting there in my office, writing the stuff down and you get the sweats again when you think back at it.
“It will be nice to see Thailand again. It will be nice to see those people again. I would like to meet the boys, I know the British guys met them there last week, and that’s going to be a very special moment.”
Speaking after the filming, Shannon Airport Managing Director Andrew Murphy said: “Hosting Mr Warny and the film crew here in Shannon for filming has been a huge honour for us. It reminds every one of his huge courage and selflessness in volunteering last year and the incredible end result there was. We’re just looking forward to seeing the film now.”
Director Tom Waller said that there are a number of movies on the rescue in the pipeline but this is the first.
“Someone has to be first. We are very excited to be making the first Thai rescue film. We are even more excited that the story is starting here in Ireland,” he said.
“Jim was one of the international team that went to help out in the mission and we decided that one of the stories would be our very own Jim Warny.
“People watched this story unfold and their hearts were beating - it was a story that touched everyone no matter where they were on the planet. I was in Ireland at the time when I heard about these boys getting trapped in the cave and it was just by chance that I heard that one of the divers had a connection to Ireland and that is when I came across Jim and his story.”
Mr Waller said that they have already shot in a number of locations in Clare.
“We have been shooting in west Clare in Doolin, at the Cliffs of Moher and quite a lot of remarkable locations that you wouldn’t find anywhere else on the planet. It has been a pleasure to be able to come to Ireland and contrast with the scenes in Thailand.
“I thought wouldn’t it be great to have Jim play himself. He was open to it and I did some screen tests and I thought Jim playing himself would be the best thing for the movie. He got lots of offers from other movie studios to be honest and whether he took those offers seriously or not or whether they were serious offers, I don’t know.
“It is probably the one film I have been involved in that has had so much attention before it is even made. Usually when making a film, no one is interested in the script, in financing it and this has been the opposite.
“My main objective is to make a good film - it is not whether it is commercially successful or not. I just want to tell a story that is true to what happened and to the fact that we are telling a story about civilians at the heart of the rescue,” he added.