Bangkok: A pair of Aussie divers at the centre of the dramatic rescue of the Thai soccer team trapped in Tham Luang cave have struck multi-million dollar, tell-all movie and book deals with a major US publisher and film studio.
Richard 'Harry' Harris and Craig Challen, who were instrumental in the rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team in July, have verbally agreed to the deal - put together by Matt Del Piano, from the Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency - and will finally tell their story about their role in the rescue.
The assistant coach of the Wild Boars, Ekapol ‘Ek’ Chantawong has also agreed to participate in the "as told to" book project and movie deal, while the 12 young members of the soccer team will also participate in the project and be handsomely paid.
The total value of the movie deal with Universal for Dr Harris and Dr Challen, coach Ek and the Boars - once the film is made - is US$3 million (AU$4.17 million), while the book deal with US publishing giant Ballantine is worth another US$1 million (AU$1.39 million) - bringing the total value to US$4 million, or about AU$6.25 million.
For the movie deal, US$750,000 (AU$1.04 million) will be paid to each Dr Harris and Dr Challen, and the remaining US$1.5 million (US$2,08 million) will be split equally by Coach Ek and the 12 young footballers.
For the book deal, one third will go to Dr Harris, one third to Dr Challen and the final third will be split by coach Ek and the 12 Boars.
That means that both Dr Harris and Dr Challen will eventually be paid about US$1.083 million each (AU$1.5 million) in total to tell their stories, while the Wild Boars and their coach will share a US$1.83 million (AU$2.5 million) pay day.
Split 13 ways, each of the Boars stands to receive as much as US$140,000 each (AU$195,000) from the deal - more than 20 times the annual average Thai salary.
But fans of the heroic Aussie duo will be waiting some time for the divers' own account of the rescue.
The book does not yet have a publishing date beyond "hopefully in 2019" according to a spokeswoman for Ballantine quoted in the New York Post.
At least three books including The Great Cave Rescue - which will be published next week - as well as The Cave and The Boys in the Cave are all due out before the end of the year.
The Thai government is also involved in overseeing negotiations, which could potentially delay the final sign off on the deal.
It's understood the one year anniversary of the dramatic rescue - July 10, 2019 - has been pencilled in for the release of the book.
Mr Del Piano, who confirmed the figures involved in the deal and who also represents Hollywood stars including Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Lopez, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Sinise, told Fairfax Media that he was delighted to put the deal together.
Ensuring the Boars - who are aged 12 to 17 - got a cut of the profits was a priority all the way through, he said.
“My real motivation was to get the kids some money. Hollywood would make the movie and they would make no money and I didn’t want that to happen," he said.
Two Thai women Mr Del Piano employed as fixers - Eve Rungrada Pakda and Oil Chuthathip Charoensuwan - were crucial to putting the deal together.
“I couldn’t have done it without them. They made my mission their mission, they understood what I was trying to do, and really they were just as obsessed as I was about getting it done," he said.
The pair got the Wild Boars' head coach Nopparat ‘Nop’ Kanthawong on side, and that led to Coach Ek and eventually, the boys themselves agreeing to the Creative Artists Agency representing them and doing the deals.
While those talks were ongoing, Mr Del Piano flew to Adelaide on August 4th, the home town of Dr Harris, to sign up the anaesthetist and his dive buddy, Dr Challen. Both were initially reluctant to agree to representation by a US agent.
But when he arrived at the Adelaide home Dr Harris had just finished a phone call with decorated film maker James Cameron - responsible for films including Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, and also represented by the same agency - and Mr Del Piano convinced the Australian duo to sign on.
Dr Harris and Dr Challen have this far declined to participate in the books that are already being written about the extraordinary rescue of the team from Tham Luang cave earlier this year.
In the lead up to the dramatic rescue, it was Dr Harris who oversaw the sedation of the boys before British divers Rick Stanton, John Volanthen, Chris Jewell, Jason Mallinson and, on the final day of the rescue a fifth diver, Jim Warny, then swam and dived the team members through the treacherous conditions inside the cave to safety.
Dr Challen, a vet who is Dr Harris' dive buddy, journeyed into the cave on each of the three rescue days. He was stationed in the 8th chamber of the cave - one chamber removed from the 9th chamber, Nern Nom Sao, where the boys had been stranded since June 23 - and administered "top up" sedatives to the boys, as needed.
Dr Harris and Dr Challen were, last week, respectively named South Australian and Western Australian of the year.
Ellis Henican, an author, columnist and Fox News analyst, has signed up to write the "as told to" book, which has a working title of Into the Dark: the Dramatic Story of the Thai Cave Rescue and which will tell the story from both inside and outside the cave.
The pair met with several authors before agreeing to sit down with Mr Henican to tell their story.
The Great Cave Rescue, by James Massola, will be published by Allen and Unwin on November 14. An extract will appear in this weekend's Good Weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
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