A new version of the British documentary-thriller that captured the imaginations of divers in 2019 is about to be previewed at the Cannes Film Festival.
Woody Harrelson has been cast to star with Canadian actor Simu Liu and Djimon Hounsou (Amistad and many Marvel / DC roles) in the Hollywood version of Last Breath. The movie will follow – in real time – the tense true story of attempts to rescue Scottish saturation diver Chris Lemons, stranded at a depth of 100m.
He and two other divers were working on repairs to North Sea oil pipeline infrastructure when a computer failure caused their support vessel to part company with their bell. An umbilical snagged, Lemons lost his air supply – and what followed left experts scratching their heads.
The film will be directed by Alex Parkinson, co-director with Richard da Costa of the original version, which featured the commercial divers and support crew involved in the incident. That production had itself been inspired by a safety film made for the oil industry.
“Such an incredible story, amazing characters and the archive video was jaw-dropping,” Parkinson told Diver at the time. “You don’t need to be a diver or know much about diving at all to engage with the story and the utter horror of being trapped all alone on the seabed. So that was what drove us eventually to get it made into a feature film for a worldwide audience.”
That film had a cinema release, but the feeling is that the mind-boggling tale deserves greater international exposure. The new Last Breath is being described by movie-industry insiders as likely to be one of the “hot packages” at the Cannes market, where movie distribution deals are struck.
Part of the appeal of the original version was its deft use of people telling their own story – now the question is whether even professional actors of the stature of Harrelson, Liu and Hounsou can convey it any better.
Harrelson qualified as a scuba diver in the Bahamas in 2004 while making the movie After The Sunset. The Cannes Film Festival runs from 17-28 May.