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Interview with The New Yorker Staff Writer Susan Glasser; Interview with "Thirteen Lives" Director Ron Howard; Interview with "Thirteen Lives" Co-Producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon; Interview with "Ike's Bluff" Author Evan Thomas. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 05, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone and welcome to Amanpour. Here is what's coming up.
After seven earthshaking days in politics, we get the lay of the land with author and "New Yorker" columnist Susan Glasser. Then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, they're here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 13.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 13.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we go out now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The extraordinary story of divers who saved a trapped Thai football team reaches the big screen. Director Ron Howard and Producer
Raymond Phathanavirangoon talk, "Thirteen Lives".
Also, ahead. 77 years since the first atomic bomb fell on Japan. Hiroshima historian Evan Thomas talks to Walter Isaacson about its radioactive
Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
China's lie fire drills in the Taiwan Strait have provided an explosive finale to a dizzying week in global politics. Beijing is making good on its
promise that Taipei would pay the price for hosting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier last week. A visit that came just after the White
House announced of the leader of Al-Qaeda in Kabul.
Domestically, the United States underwent several political earthquakes as well, with the potential revival of President Biden's climate agenda. And
the landslide victory for abortion rights in the steadfastly Republican State of Kansas. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said that a week
is a long time in politics. And right, now that's really hard to argue with.
"The New Yorker" Susan Glasser, has spent her career making sense of Washington and the world beyond it. And she joined me to talk about this
Susan Glasser, thank you so much for joining us. Quite a busy week in the world of politics. Let's start abroad, with that historic visit by House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the highest profile U.S. official in 25 years since Speaker Gingrich's trip there. Talk about the significance of
this trip, the implications, and whether, in your opinion, it was a wise decision on the speaker's part given the outrage and response from the
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, I mean, look, a lot has changed in the last 25 years, you know. Although it's not the first
potential crisis over at Taiwan, I should underscore that. In fact, the last time was back in the 1990s, the third crisis over at Taiwan right
before Newt Gingrich's visit.
You know, look, Nancy Pelosi has had a very decades-long record of being a real advocate for human rights inside China. A real critic of the Chinese
communist rule inside the country, and a supporter of Taiwan. I do think the politics of this are quite interesting and to cut both ways. For both
Xi Jinping and Nancy Pelosi, there is a certain incentive in aiming at their domestic audiences in talking tough about the other.
Certainly, Nancy Pelosi and flying to Taiwan wants to send the message, not only of American support, but also here in Washington, the message that
it's not just Republicans but Democrats as well that are willing to pursue a tough on China policy and to support Taiwan. There is not a strong view,
as you know, Bianna, that we are hurdling toward a much more significant level of confrontation, and potentially conflict with China. And that
Taiwan is very likely to be one of those flashpoints.
Xi Jinping has made it absolutely clear, almost as Vladimir Putin has with Ukraine, that he will not consider his leadership of China to be complete
until he has achieved what he views as the inevitable reunification with Taiwan. He does not believe that Taiwan has the right to independent self-
determination and self-governance as it currently has. And that means that, you know, he's headed towards a confrontation, both with Taiwan and with
the United States which has historically and continues to support that one.
GOLODRYGA: And given the heightened tensions now, you know, the U.S. line has always been that this is a Chinese overreaction that the one-China
policy remains in place, Nancy Pelosi even reiterated that.
And some may argue, look, there are two schools here. One says that this was nothing more than a big symbolic trip on her part. There was no real
meat to the substance of her meetings on the ground there. And given the heightened tensions, given the pressure on Xi Jinping, was this trip worth
it? Was the net benefit to the U.S., or was it to China in terms of who's trying to continue the escalation between these two rivals?
GLASSER: Well, I can tell you that it's absolutely correct, as has been reported that, you know, senior officials in the Biden administration were
very concerned and unhappy about the prospect of speaker Pelosi's trip. They thought it was not good timing. That it was ill-advised at this
moment. Remember, they are trying very much to manage this enormous crisis in Europe with Russia's unprovoked invasion and continuing war against
Ukraine. This is a massive geopolitical jolt to the system, and to American foreign policy. So, they are not eager to have simultaneous great power
crises with both China and Russia erupting on their watch.
And so, I think it's absolutely accurate that this was not something favored by the Biden administration. But once President Biden, you know,
lets that slip publicly and was at a gaffe, was it who knows. But once he said publicly, which he did just last week, he said, well, the military
doesn't think it is a good idea for her to go this time. Once that was public, the laws of politics basically dictated that, of course, she had to
follow through with it. That the United States could not be seen as backing down to China and to Chinese pressure like that.
So, I think it was politically inevitable once the dispute became public. Number one, obviously it is a very worrisome moment in the world right now.
I mean, I do think that you've gone from, essentially, a relatively stable world of great power relations, at least. You know that is between the
United States and Russia and China. And to a very unstable world where there is a sense of brewing, if not actual, already happening conflict with
both other major world powers. So, it is a very worrisome moment.
GOLODRYGA: OK. Let's go to the other major -- in any other time, any other year, this would have been the big story. But let's talk about the
assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al-Qaeda, the head of Al- Qaeda this past week. A big quo, this man -- the U.S. had been searching for him, obviously, since the 9/11 attacks. Found him in broad daylight in
a posh neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, of all places, as we come up to a year of U.S. leaving that country. Talk about the significance of this
win for President Biden from a, you know, just counterterrorism standpoint but also politically at home.
GLASSER: Yes, I mean, undoubtedly this is a major moment. A 21-year-long manhunt being brought to an end. Justice in some rough way after the horror
of 9/11. Zawahiri is a key figure in the history of Al-Qaeda. And has been the leader of the group since Osama Bin Laden was killed by a daring
counterterrorism raid in Pakistan in 2011. So, it's an enormous moment.
For me, I think, you know, having covered the war in Afghanistan that results in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, you know, there is a sense of
the horrible circularity of the whole thing though, Bianna. Right? Here is Zawahiri, right in the middle of downtown Kabul. I know that neighborhood.
In fact, when we moved into Kabul to cover the war at -- in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Taliban government in late 2001, early
2002. We, you know, "The Washington Post", that's where I worked at the time, and "Newsweek", we shared a house in that same neighborhood that had
recently been vacated by foreign fighters from Al-Qaeda. Right?
And here they are, once again, the Taliban is in control of the country after a 20-year war. And, you know, they're welcoming the leader of Al-
Qaeda, who feels confident enough to go out on his balcony in daylight on a Sunday morning. So, there is a sense --
GOLODRYGA: Rohili, right?
GLASSER: That's right. Exactly. Because the U.S., a very methodical preparation -- I do think you asked about the significance of this. One
thing is that it's a pretty incredible advertisement for the American capabilities, intelligence capabilities, and military capabilities.
Attacked on that intelligence that have been developed over the last couple of decades, right? Like, this is a strike that-- we've seen the picture of
the building, you know. All that they took out was a balcony on which he was standing,
It appears, that's their claim, that no one else was injured. And, you know, that's what they've said. And it's really dramatic, right? It does
underscore the message that President Biden took from this which is, like, we will find you down and hunt you anywhere. And we still do have the
capability, even after the U.S. left Afghanistan to conduct significant missions inside of that country if we need to for American national
But the flip side is it also just serves as a reminder of both potentially the, you know, the sort of grinding circularity of that war, right? And
then, you know, here we are one year after, the very awkward and embarrassing pictures, you know, of the withdrawal, the American withdrawal
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And so, the president, rightly so, touting that regardless of whether we have boots on the ground or not, these horizon missions will,
sort of, be the future of counterterrorism. A big get, no doubt. But do you see this impacting his stubbornly low approval ratings here at home?
GLASSER: No. In a short word, no.
GLASSER: You know, I think that it's very hard to see, you know, any foreign policy issues, you know, in the absence of some, you know,
massively game-changing new development significantly altering the political dynamic here inside the country which has to do, you know, with
the very, very unpleasant mood that the country is in.
I mean, you know, you look at the wrong track numbers of the country is not a surprise. If 80 percent of the United States thinks that things are going
in the wrong way, inside the country, it's not a surprise on some level that they have a very downbeat view of the president who's leading the
country at that moment in time.
So, I think that's a major driver, obviously. Our internal divisions are as well. Biden has gotten largely positive reviews, for example, in his
handling of the war in Ukraine from across the political spectrum. But that hasn't really affected his approval rating at all. In fact, his rating has
continued to go down and down even during this period.
GOLODRYGA: So, let's talk about what could be some potential developing new headlines in terms of what could turn voters around in some of the areas of
focus. And that is reading the tea leaves from what we heard and saw yesterday in the primaries.
Let's talk about the biggest headline, and that was the surprise abortion vote in Kansas. Voters there choose to keep the right to abortion in that
State's constitution. Kansas is a red state. It appears that voters from both parties turned out in droves and huge numbers. What does that signal
to you in terms of the weight that the Roe V. Wade decision carries for voters? As they are factoring in other issues, the economy at the front and
center there. What does this mean going forward?
GLASSER: Yes, I think you are right to spotlight that as the big news out of the primaries on Tuesday. Kansas, not only a red State, one of the
reddest of the red States, and it was not expected that there would be this kind of voter turnout. This was a very high turnout. In particular, I
should say from Democrats who weren't expected to come.
And, you know, this was a very, kind of, wow result because it was also the first major very concrete vote that looked at Americans and abortion in the
wake of the decision. Right? So, it had heightened scrutiny there. And look, you know, it showed that not only Democrats but a significant number
of Republicans as well clearly were against the decisions and wanted to make sure that abortion rights remained in force in the state constitution
Now, I would point out that this was an up or down vote on the abortion rights issue. And, you know, this fall, when it comes to the midterm
elections and voting for control of Congress, you know, it's not an up or down vote on just that one issue. Right? You know, there's a lot of things
that voters will factor into, including the state of the economy, the state of their abuse. The two parties in general. Other factors. Local factors.
So, it's -- won't be as clear cut.
But Democrats do believe that while history is very much against them in the midterm elections, right? There's just almost an inevitability to the
idea that the incumbent president's party will suffer losses in his first midterm election.
History is against them. But -- that the one thing that really could cut in the other direction is this almost historic earthquake of the Supreme Court
choosing to throw out Roe versus Wade in the middle of the election year. They think that that's going to drive more Democrats to the polls, and this
is certainly proof of concept to them.
GOLODRYGA: How do you think voters will respond in -- let's just talk about this upcoming midterm election. What appeared to be some rather surprising
in back-to-back political legislative wins for the president. Some of them more surprising than others. But the Senate passed the Chips Act that's
investing in domestic tech manufacturing to limit China's role in this field. The PACT Act, a lot of attention and a lot of controversy
surrounding that. Which didn't need to play out and that's the embarrassing side of it but it got through finally. A bill that will help veterans,
affected, health-wise from burn pits.
And obviously, we talk about the al-Zawahiri assassination. And the president, perhaps, getting a reconciliation bill at the end of the day
passed. What does that do for him and what does that mean for voter turnout?
GLASSER: Well, these are, you know, kind of the key questions in variables that we will be looking at going into the midterms. I would point out that
really in his term, he also had the victory with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is a major, major investment that his
predecessor, Trump, spent four years promising he would deliver and was unable to do so. And yet that infrastructure bill, while significant did
not really change the political balance of power in Biden's favor at all
So, I'm not sure how much activity in the Senate will actually have a direct bearing on what happens this fall. I think it is significant, at
least, if the reconciliation bill now that Joe Manchin has changed his mind if it were to go through. I do think that's, at least a motivator to the
Democrats themselves and to try to bring their own turnout level and enthusiasm level up.
Right now, you know, what you hear Democrats around Washington talking about it is, you know, can they run way ahead of the president of their own
party in terms of popularity? And certainly, delivering legislative accomplishments is one way that senators, who are up for reelection think
that they might be able to do that. But they're going to do that if they want to win reelection.
Joe Biden, in some of these battleground States, his approval ratings are dismal. So, any Democrat who wants to have a chance to win reelection in
State like Georgia, which is one of the key States this fall that has a Senate race up or, you know, other battleground States like that, they're
going to need to show accomplishments as well if they're going to win reelection.
GOLODRYGA: Let me finally ask you, after all that we have recovered, after all of the investigative reports that you've worked on. Here we are, years
later. and your latest piece, "Trump versus Biden, Biden versus Trump. Let's call the whole thing off." Some things changed. Some things never
change. Talk about the possibility that we could have these two men, once again running against each other.
GLASSER: Well, that's right. I do think one of the key dynamics in this country right now is not only the incredibly sour mood overall of the
electorate. But part of that is clearly a feeling, you know, is this really the best that the country has to offer?
There is an emerging sense, I think the "New York Times" called it the gerontocracy the other day, you know. And that -- frankly, that's what we
have right now is a gerontocracy. The leaders of our two American political parties, President Biden is about to turn 80 years old. Donald Trump the
former president, who seems eager to mount a comeback bid and remains certainly the titular head of the Republican party, he's pushing 80
Obviously, either man, given a second term, you know, would be well- advanced and into the 80s. And the oldest president already is Joe Biden. Nancy Pelosi obviously, is -- let's just say an age pear of theirs as well,
so is Mitch McConnell.
And, you know, there's a question in this big vital country and at a time of so many crazies and challenges as you and I have just been talking about
from Taiwan to Ukraine, to Afghanistan, to recession potential, to inflation, you know, gridlock. Is that really what voters want?
And I do think there is a sense of, sort of, fatigue in the same way that voters were quite sour on the idea of dynastic rule, right? They didn't
want more Clintons. They elected two Bushes that might have not been something that in the end the elector had decided it was such a good idea.
So, is that really -- are we looking at 2024 as a rematch of Biden and Trump? I think a lot of people would not be happy with that outcome.
GOLODRYGA: And yet we are waiting in what appears to be an imminent decision on the part of former President Trump in his announcement to re-
enter. Once again, Susan Glasser, thank you as always. Great to see you. We appreciate the time.
GLASSER: Great to talk with you, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Next from a world in peril to a moment where victory was snatched from the jaws of catastrophe. In 2018, 12 members of a Thai
football team and their coach were trapped in a cave in Northern Thailand. For 18 days, the world watched with a mix of agony and hope as a team of
thousands of people tried to rescue them.
Miraculously, all 13 of them were saved. It's the stuff of Hollywood movies. And well, at least now, it is. Oscar-winning director, Ron Howard
adapting it for the big screen in his new film called "Thirteen Lives". Take a look at the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes a certain kind of mindset to the deep cave diving.
You have to be a bit nuts.
They're very, very dangerous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: High water level and a low visibility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barely shoulder wide. Pulling against very strong currents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Navy Seals, we don't go home till we've got the kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last seen nine days ago, 12 boys and their coach are trapped in the flooding caves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, they're here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 13.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 13.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we go out now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I spoke with Ron Howard and producer Raymond Phathanavirangoon about the movie.
Ron Howard and Raymond Phathanavirangoon, thank you so much for joining us. Wow, I was just blown away watching this film. And, Ron the entire world
was watching in 2018 with trepidation for 17 days as this rescue was underway. When did you decide you wanted to make a film about it?
RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR, "THIRTEEN LIVES": Well, I was riveted to the story. My wife, Cheryl, was, you know, totally, you know, invested. We all were
and relieved by the outcome. But when I read Bill Nicholson's screenplay, probably almost two years later, I recognize that there were so many near
misses. So many details. So many other individuals and groups, most of them Thai, who had accomplished so much to make that, you know, that visceral
intense and physical rescue possible.
So, I thought it had the makings for really strong cinema, and there was much more to be revealed and understood and appreciated about, you know,
what was achieved and this mission.
GOLODRYGA: It was one of the greatest, sort of, against all odds happy ending stories that we had in a really long time. And of course, as a
journalist, I was covering it here in the United States. Raymond, where were you? Were you in Thailand as this was happening?
RAYMOND PHATHANAVIRANGOON, CO-PRODUCER, "THIRTEEN LIVES": Yes, I was. And, you know, it was really interesting coming from the Thai perspective.
Because when we -- when it all happened to, you know, we knew -- of course in Thailand, there was a huge emergency and everybody was extremely
But then it became more and more of a global thing. And then suddenly it was, you know, covered worldwide. And for us, actually, it was a little,
you know, overwhelming and confusing at the same time because we were wondering like, oh, why is the world like completely transfixed by this?
But, of course, quickly, I very much understood that, of course, it's about, you know, children. And the fact that, you know, we all want to get,
you know, children into safety.
And it was just the outpouring of basically international support and everything which is incredible at the time. And of course, you know, it was
really nail-biting because, you know, we have obviously, later on, a navy seal, Saman Gunan, who is very, very important to the Thai psyche. He is
like a national hero. And, you know, like of course he is passing as well as another navy seal's passing. All of these are, you know, they really
cement this event into something that, you know, people still remember it very, very vividly to this day.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, somebody passed away and died during the rescue. The second navy seal, who you just mentioned, died subsequently after the rescue from
an infection. But that is a question that I asked myself, too. You know, we cover all of these tragedies and crises throughout the world unfortunately
on a very common basis. And yet, here was the story that sort of transfixed everybody. And as you said, 5,000 people from 17 different countries came
Ron this told a story of the collective and the better part of humanity. Because it could have ended quite differently had we not seen so many
people rallying around these boys.
HOWARD: Well, that's what I found fascinating and powerful and unique about the drama of all of this is that, so many people who knew -- really moved
the needle, really made this possible, were volunteers. Sure, there were a lot of professionals on the ground and a lot of experts who were, you know,
applying that thing that they understood. But even the divers were -- you know, the key divers were volunteers in support of the Thai navy seals.
But you know, the water diversion program up on the mountain to try and divert water away from the caves and hold off the flooding as long as
possible, all volunteers basically.
And -- but forget even that, you know, just the services, the food, the support system. And then of course the, families were basically relegated
to, you know, like being in the waiting room while your child is in the operating room for days upon days.
And -- but I also recognized that their spirituality, you know, was the one thing that they could sort of, you know, galvanize themselves around and
try to offer. And all the divers, even the Europeans, even the outsiders who didn't share that fate, many of them said to me that that energy, that
spiritual energy was palpable.
GOLODRYGA: There are all of these locals who are in this play who played key roles as well. And let's not forget the boys, the children. And Ron,
I'm just curious from your perspective, having been a child actor, how important was it for you to bond with these boys? And these are very
harrowing scenes that they were filmed in. What was this process like?
HOWARD: Well, Raymond should speak to this as well. But Billy Ruetaivnichkul was another producer, Thai producer who Raymond actually
brought on the project. He is also a young director. And I wanted to give these boys somebody who they could connect with. So yes, I needed to direct
them. But I also needed a lieutenant in this regard.
Billy did a remarkable job because these boys were from the north which has its own distinct dialect. And so, I had to cast boys who would never acted
before. I couldn't go for the experienced child actors because I knew I would need them to ad lib a lot. And they would need to ad lib in this
dialect. And Billy was so important.
But look, the Thai authenticity on a whole was important. And I relied upon the actors, but it really did begin with Raymond and then Billy and
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom our cinematographer, Lek who worked in the art department. And these people became vitally important collaborators. But
Raymond, maybe you wanted to speak to it a little bit?
GOLODRYGA: Yes, Raymond, weigh in.
PHATHANAVIRANGOON: Yes. So, it was just really important for us to get things right in terms of the accent, for example, because, you know, Tham
Luang is located actually in a place called Chiang Rai and they have a very particular accent which is even different from other major northern cities
like Chiang Mai.
So, we really wanted to actually cast actors, including Ploy Pattrakorn, she basically -- she plays a mother in the film. She's also from Chiang
Rai. And also (INAUDIBLE) who is one of the parents as well, the one who wears a straw hat, he's also from Chiang Rai. We really wanted to get even
the accents correct.
And in fact, a lot of the actors brought a lot to the film. For example, Ploy Pattrakorn, she was the one who suggested about the red bracelet, for
example, in which Kruba who is the real Myanmar monk prayed and then he then basically, handed those to the divers as good luck.
So, all of these really tiny details, we really wanted to make sure that we got it right. The great thing about the whole process was that Ron never
questioned anything. And as you may have noticed, the film is, like, nearly 40 percent in Thai dialogue. And that was, you know, that was never
questioned. He was just like, well, this is part of the script and part of what happened. And that's one of the reasons why it's been really fantastic
working with Ron and the crew. Because to get everything right was a priority, you know, without actually having it being spoken.
GOLODRYGA: Raymond, I mean, watching this, it's clear obviously, you couldn't go to these exact caves. But, boy does it feel like we are inside
of them. How was that recreated in, sort of, the claustrophobic nature of the cave itself, really transpired? I think, like, for me as a viewer, I
felt like I was in there with them. At times, you know, almost having difficulty of my own breathing and holding my breath watching them swim
through. What was that process like?
PHATHANAVIRANGOON: The credit is really to Molly Hughes, you know, our production designer. Who was really, really exacting in terms of not only
just, of course, the outside of the cave and also the base camp? But you know, like, just recreating all of these incredibly tight nooks and
crannies inside tanks, that we had to devise.
And there were so many tanks because there were so many sections of the cave. And for me, as somebody who's a little bit claustrophobic, just even
seeing some of these really tight spaces, you know, like holes, they're just tiny enough for one person to fit in, it was just incredible. And
these are recreations. And, you know, just imagine real divers going into these caves and then going through such tight spaces, was just -- I just
have no idea how they did it, so.
HOWARD: Yes, one of the real heroes, Rick Stanton, and also Jason Melanson, actually, where our technical advisers. And so, they were with us the
entire time. But when they -- they were there to coach, you know, our actors, and also to provide safety, in addition to authenticity, because
they are experts. And we also the dive team there of course, and stunt team, and so forth.
But when they went through those caves, they came up, saying, we can't believe it. It took us right back. I mean, this is so accurate.
And, you know, Molly beamed, I beamed. We were really thrilled by that. But they trained the actors to the extent that finally Viggo Mortensen and
Colin Farrell and the others said, look, we understand this well enough. And sure, there's risks. We've been taught. We recognize it. But there's a
safety team there. We want to do all the diving.
And I was skeptical at first, but eventually, their commitment, you know, sort of convinced all of us. We rearranged the schedule. Often, they were
just work overtime and on their days off, so that they could do all of it. And it really, really helped me as a director. And I think it means a lot
to audiences, because those tight spaces that Raymond is talking about, those are our actors wriggling through there.
PHATHANAVIRANGOON: And, you know, that's --
GOLODRYGA: And you had closeups on them.
GOLODRYGA: And you had closeups. I mean, yes, for a viewer, it was really helpful to see that those were the actors themselves and not just stunt
doubles who were underwater. We have a clip from one of these rescue scenes. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are very brave. How did you stay this strong?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are team. We help each other and our coach help us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coach?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I offer my most sincere apologies for leading the boys into danger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's not true. Coach helped us. We love our coach. He's the best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of our coach, we are stay strong. He teach us to meditate and pray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You pray?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bet you do. All right. This is to get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: There we saw Colin Ferrell, for the first time, seeing these boys when they found them. But, Ron, I read that they themselves, the
actors, had some moments of fear that you did not learn about until quite later, during their experiences underwater in filming this.
HOWARD: Well, they were -- look, everybody was determined to get this right and to do everything they could, and these guys had sort of pledged to do
this and convinced me, against my better judgment, in some ways, to try that. And later, I found out that they all had had tight spots where they
were stuck and panicked a little bit and they had, you know, experiences that they -- that were -- you know, that's disturbing for them. But they
had gotten through them, and they never said the word until post- production. Because I think they felt like it would have pulled the plug on that approach to the work.
And, you know, to be able to see them in a wide shot wriggling through and then, come out and into one of those close-ups that you were talking about,
you know, it created suspense. And this is a movie. You know, it's a movie movie, and I wanted that kind of suspense, and tension attention, and
cinema. And -- you know, and so, did they.
But the scene we just saw, too. Colin and Viggo were so blown away by the simple authenticity and honesty of the boys, and that, for them, they just
kept feeling like they were losing themselves in the environment as actors and it made the job all the better. But it goes, they never get out of
their wetsuits, they never backed away from a single thing. They committed themselves to the idea that this was an ensemble movie. And through that,
of course, they offered a great deal of leadership and inspiration.
But the whole group -- I mean, it was a joy for me as a director to just work with this international group and see them -- see it all, you know,
come to life, because it's -- you know, it's a unique story. And frankly, not to be too corny about it, I think we all felt honored to have the
opportunity to try to, you know, through our lens, kind of reflect what we thought had been accomplished and why. And that it is a tremendous object
lesson in the possibility of what human beings can do when they come together.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And, Raymond, as we go back to this idea of coming together and what was it about the story that drew the whole world's hearts and
attention for such a long period of time? I am thinking of one underlying theme here, and that was soccer, right? These were soccer players. Soccer
is a universally beloved sport. And this was at the time of the World Cup.
And so, throughout the film, you hear the status, right? The latest results from matches, and even the actors themselves, as they are rescuing the
boys. They are talking about the field of soccer. And subsequently, after this rescue, we should note, that the coach and three of the boys were
granted citizenship because they were stateless. How is everyone doing today, Raymond?
PHATHANAVIRANGOON: Right. As far as I know, you know, they are doing great. In fact, Rick Stanton told me that -- Vern Unsworth, you know, of course,
he is the British, you know, resident in Thailand who, you know, was the one who called all of the divers to come to the rescue. He actually took
five of the boys back into the cave, and they had stayed there for like 24 hours.
And of course, my first question to Rick, you know, because he was the one telling me was, you know, were they scared or were they like -- you know,
did they have residual traumas? And they were like, no. Actually, it seemed like they had a great time kind of reliving, you know, everything that
happened. It just mirrors what we're trying to really convey with the story, because I remembered Ron, you know, at the beginning, he was just
telling me, look, you know, the film -- this story is so important because, right now, we are going through a pandemic and there is so much social
political strife everywhere.
But this story that happened in 2018 shows that when we forget about our, you know, egos and, you know, like we do things through the bases of
volunteerism and also kindness, we can actually perform something really miraculous and we can forget about all our differences. And I think this
the kind of message that Ron is trying to say and he said it, you know, he said, isn't this the message that we really, you know, should or want to
hear in this kind of times? Because, yes, just to get an idea that we can all come together and do something really much greater than ourselves.
GOLODRYGA: It showcases the best of humanity, and you portray that beautifully in this film. Ron and Raymond, thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for this incredible movie.
HOWARD: I appreciated. I'm glad you enjoyed the film.
PHATHANAVIRANGOON: Thank you so much.
HOWARD: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: 77 years ago, this weekend, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Snuffing out 70,000 lives in
an instant and announcing the arrival of the atomic age. All these years later, the world is struggling with the legacy of the bomb's invention.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warning this week that the world is just one misstep away from nuclear annihilation.
In this conversation, Hiroshima historian Evan Thomas talks to Walter Isaacson about that historic moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And, Evan Thomas, welcome to the show.
EVAN THOMAS, AUTHOR, "IKE'S BLUFF": Hi, Walter.
ISAACSON: You and I wrote a long time ago -- I'm just trying to think how long ago -- a book together called "The Wise Men," which had in it the
story of the dropping of the atom bomb. Back then, there were a lot of revisionist historians, not us, but a lot of others saying, the U.S. didn't
need to drop the bomb, it was done to scare the Soviets. It was not something that was necessary.
Now, you're in the middle of a book about the dropping of the bomb. You've got a lot of access to the players in Japan and what they thought. Tell me,
was it necessary to drop the bomb?
THOMAS: Yes, without question. I know there's been a ton of research on this and revisionist have argued that Japan was ready to surrender that if
we just warned them, they would've surrendered. I think the evidence now is overwhelming, that revisionists are just wrong. That Japan was not ready to
One bit of truth of this is that on the morning after we have dropped the second bomb and the Russians have declared war on Japan the night before
and invaded Manchuria, the vote in the Supreme War Council, the people who actually ran Japan was a tie, three to three, of whether to surrender. And
the ones voting again -- and it had to be a consensus. The ones voting against surrendering were the powerful ones, the war minister, the army-
navy chief of staff. They were determined to fight to the bitter end.
Part of this was (INAUDIBLE), what we would consider to be crazy, loopy, nutty. But it wasn't all that crazy for this reason. The Japanese knew they
lost the way, but they thought if they could force us to invade it would be such a bloodbath that we would give them good terms. We would say, OK, you
can keep the emperor. You can -- no occupation. Maybe just us some of your territory. They were -- that was not completely nutty because if they had
forced an invasion, we would have lost somewhere between 40,000 and a million men in the first month or so, simply because the Japanese had piled
a beach of the kamikaze planes and suicides, sprag (ph) men, suicide speedboats. It was going to be an utter -- it was going to make Okinawa,
which was a bloodbath look like a skirmish.
ISAACSON: You know, you and I show one thing, which is both your father and my father, one in the Navy in the Pacific then.
ISAACSON: So, I think instinctively, we say, whoa. You know, we may not be here had there been an invasion. Do you really think, though, there
would've been an invasion by the U.S. of the mainland?
THOMAS: The argument against revisionists is, oh, my God, there's going to be an invasion. My dad is going to get killed. Actually, and I'm not so
sure there would have been an invasion for this reason. When we ordered out the invasion, when we plan the invasion, it looked like we had a three to
Which is the normal -- if you're doing an amphibious landing in the Pacific in World War II, you want to have about three to one edge. Well, we had it
in June but we did it in August. By August, the Japanese had brought in so many reinforcements. There were more Japanese on the beach than America is
coming into the beach.
So, the navy and the air force, which never wanted to do the invasion -- invasion is an army of -- that was MacArthur and Marshall. And army and
navy would say, no, no, no. We're not going to -- no invasion. We're going to squeeze them, starve them, burn them. You know, the air force wanted to
bomb, navy wanted to blockade them. And, you know, that probably would've worked in a hellacious way.
The Japanese were already starting to starve to death. They were down to like 500 calories a day to the civilians. And by -- this is August, by say
Christmas time, you would have had in the millions dying of starvation with disease, civil war, who knows what would've happened.
ISAACSON: But you are saying, a million people would've died if we had done the blockade and tried to starve them.
THOMAS: The least, the least.
ISAACSON: How many people died from the atom -- two atom bombs?
THOMAS: 200,000. It is a big number. I am not minimizing this at all. It was 70,000 right away in Hiroshima and another 70,000 --
ISAACSON: But do you think you can make moral calculus when you say, it would've been a million, but this way was only 200,000 or was the bomb
something so totally different, we should have thought about that more -- you know, in a different way?
THOMAS: You know, the record of them debating all of this, it is not a clear-cut thing. They're not making a moral calculus. They are not weighing
the numbers. It doesn't work that way. There was an inevitability to this problem. We spent $2 billion making the thing, which is a lot of money. We
were on track to use this. It was going to be hard to justify not using it having spent all of this money. There was not a high tone world debate
There were moments when we got into it. One of the characters I write about, Henry Simson, did worry about it and did make some moral arguments.
But the overwhelming momentum was to drop this whole thing.
ISAACSON: Well, you know, you talk about Colonel Henry Stimson who was then, I think, secretary of war. He had been secretary of state and one at
the grand old people in foreign policy. Tell me about him, because the story that you write in the book, even of him having a heart attack after
showing the photos to Truman make him seem like this morally anguished person that I never knew he was.
THOMAS: He didn't show moral anxiety because he was a hard guy. He'd been a prosecutor. He'd been secretary of war and then secretary of state. And he
was above certain a stern wasp visage. You didn't see any weakness in Henry Stimson or any whining or any complaining. That was against his ethos. But,
privately, we know from this diaries, he was torn up about this.
And, as you mentioned, on the morning that he shows the president of the United States the photos of the destruction of Hiroshima, he has a heart
attack. Now, was that a coincidence? You know, maybe. But maybe not. He has a bigger heart attack a month later. He was very torn up by this and he
knew -- he believed it was the right thing to do. He didn't second guess himself in that sense but he was killing a couple of hundred thousand
people, and he knew he was.
ISAACSON: Ultimately, the decision, at least in theory, was President Truman. A totally new president at the time. I think he'd been in office
like three or four months, and he didn't even know about the atom bomb that much when he comes into office.
THOMAS: At all.
ISAACSON: So, how much is he entering into making this decision?
THOMAS: You know, I mean, the guy around the Manhattan Project, General Groves, famously said that Harry Truman was like a kid on a (INAUDIBLE). In
other words, just going down the hill, couldn't stop himself. It was a condescending view of Truman, and ultimately, not fair. Truman was the
president. He was responsible. He did take responsibility for it. But he was overwhelmed by this decision. It would've been very hard for him to say
no. In fact, it would have been impossible for him to say no, and he never really even considered saying no.
He did some -- and this is (INAUDIBLE) -- self-denial. He wrote in his diary, on the night that the order went out to the -- and the order was to
drop a bomb starting with Hiroshima and then, continuing the bomb for cities that was on the target list, he wrote in his diary, the president
wrote in his diary, Hiroshima is a purely military target. Thank God no women and children will be killed.
But hello? I mean, it was just completely untrue and impossible. And, you know, you -- there's no clear evidence on why he wrote that, whether he
convinced himself, he was in denial. Henry Stimson didn't maybe give him the world's press briefing. They spent part of the day taking another city,
Kyoto, off the target list. So, he may have felt, well by sparing Kyoto, I'm doing the right thing here. Or just human psychological need to live
with the impossible decision. And he was used to living with difficult moral problems. And he just rationalized it.
Later, after, afterwards, he did take responsibility, and he -- you know, the buck stops here and he was kind of contemptuous. There's a famous scene
when Oppenheimer, the scientists who basically designed the bomb. He comes in after -- this is a couple months later, after Hiroshima, and says, oh,
Mr. President, I have blood on my hands. And Truman says, get out of here. You know, this was my decision. So, he did take responsibility.
ISAACSON: This is part of a whole trend of U.S. policies during World War II that there was a debate between those who believed in precision bombing,
which wasn't working all that well. One of the characters in your book, Dewey Spots (ph), also decides, well, we need to do pure carpet bombing at
times, and they did the firebombing, especially the firebombing of Tokyo. Did they see the atom bomb as just part of a progression, sort of like the
firebombing of Tokyo?
THOMAS: No. It's the academics who wrote about this way, crossing the moral Rubicon and, you know, they -- all sorts of professors have come up with
excuses. That's not the way talked about it in real-time. There was a lot of denial.
Stimson thought that he had a promise to stop firebombing. Because as you mentioned, they firebombed Tokyo in March. 100,000 dead, more than
Hiroshima. And Stimson was not happy about this. And he thought that -- Bob love it, Robert loved it. And promised him that they were going to stop
firebombing. And they kind of shoved Stimson off, like kind of blow him off and they continue to firebomb, right up to August.
Now, it is true that had we not dropped the atom bomb, they were going to shift -- they had better radar and better weapons and they were going to
shift their position by -- but we didn't have the capacity to precision bomb. We wanted to. We thought we had the capacity, but we didn't. The
British understood that they didn't and they just did area bombing, city bombing, and they were killing civilians and they didn't make any bones
ISAACSON: Should they have just done a demonstration of the atom bomb somewhere, like on a remote island, and done that to scare Japan into
THOMAS: It was briefly discussed, but ejected because, A, they weren't sure it would work, they weren't sure the Japanese would notice. They did not
know if you set it up. They thought they might shoot down the plane. It was very promptly (ph) rejected.
I know today people say, hey, we should have it done a demonstration. But at the time, they barely thought about it because they figured it wouldn't
work, it was just too much for a risk and it wouldn't have been pressed the Japanese anyways.
ISAACSON: You know, I have read some of your draft and your research, and one of the most interesting things is what you got from the Japanese side,
and you got the family of Foreign Minister Togo, who was one of those six people in the war council, right? And he was the one who thought he can
make a deal with the Russians. He wanted to surrender. Tell me about his role.
THOMAS: Well, he is the only guy who could see that this was, you know, heading to a very bad ending and is not wedded to this idea of noble
sacrifice. The Japanese got themselves in a state of mind that there was something beautiful and wonderful about death. This is -- not just a top,
but in this society of Japanese war movies would end in death, and often in suicide. It was considered heroic and noble. And this whole idea -- it was
in the newspaper headlines, wouldn't it be wonderful if the 100 million, the entire population of Japan perished gloriously to defend the idea of
the Yamato (ph) race? It all sounds mad now, but it was pervasive, particularly, in the military.
And Togo, our man, Togo, he was an exception. Partly, he wasn't even Japanese, he was Korean. Japan is a very racist place. His family had been
Korean 400 years earlier, but he was still a Korean. He had to buy -- his family bought a samurai name. His real name was Park. So, he was an
He had studied in Germany and he had studied (INAUDIBLE) sort of the good Germany of the intellectual Germany, and he was a humanist, and he just
thought more like a westerner than his own colleagues. But persuading them was hard because he was a target for assassination. If you try to make
peace, there's a real chance the army was going to come and kill you.
ISAACSON: So, what was the role of the emperor? I mean, he was supposed to be regarded as a deity and yet, in some ways, he is not in control there.
THOMAS: He is not. He's really the tool of the military. The military needs the emperor for legitimacy. We're doing this for the emperor. But the
emperor needs the military to stay in power. And under the system that they had worked out really by his grandfather, the military had power. And they
-- for instance, when they made a decision, they would make it come to the emperor and the emperor would say nothing. And that meant, OK, you could do
The emperor --
ISAACSON: But doesn't he record a surrender message that almost results in a coup?
THOMAS: He does. Finally, the emperor -- because of -- partly, because he - - you know, he doesn't want to be killed by the Americans. Because he fears that we are about to bomb the palace. He is not wrong about this. President
Truman, at this moment, is thinking about a third atom bomb to land on Tokyo. So, these are a few hours. In fact, Truman tells the British, we are
going to do this.
So, they're picking up radio messages, they sense that Tokyo is next. So, his -- partly to save his own skin and also, because it's the right thing
to do, he does surrender. And he records a message to be played on the radio the next day. There is a coup attempt that night, and there are
soldiers running through the palace looking for the recording to smash the record so that the country can't hear the recording the next day. They
can't find it. It is hidden in a lady's and waiting chamber, and they can't find the record. So, there's coup.
ISAACSON: Wouldn't it have been smart for us earlier on, meaning the U.S. and the West, to have allowed Japan, told Japan that they'd be allowed to
keep their emperor?
THOMAS: Yes. There is -- and this is part of the revisionist argument. The Potsdam Declaration doesn't say, you can keep your emperor. And Stimson
wanted this. There is still a debate about this. Because -- and the hardliners say that, if we had said, keep your emperor, that that would
have been a sign of weakness and that would have strengthened the hand of the militarist and made it even harder to surrender. So, there is a view --
Rick Trank (ph), who is a leading scholar of this and some others, take the view that that would have not -- that would have backfired. It would've
shown weakness. And you could not show any weakness.
But there is also the view that we would have looked better in history if we, at least, offer the Japanese the chance to keep their emperor, because
after all, they did keep their emperor. We let them keep their emperor.
ISAACSON: And so, how did they end up keeping the emperor? We finally did say, if you surrender, the emperor can stay in power?
THOMAS: There's a little back and forth. They said, we will surrender if we can keep the emperor. We thought about it for half a second and said, yes.
Now, we word it in a way that made it clear that the emperor was reporting to us and he was no longer the deity, he was no longer the supreme being.
He was working for, as it happened, General MacArthur.
ISAACSON: You know, we are doing this on the anniversary, right around the anniversary, of the dropping of the bomb. To what extent do you think the
dropping of the bomb sort of shaped the post-Cold War order?
THOMAS: Well, for sure. I mean, there is no question we immediately and very quickly got into a standoff against the Soviet Union that was frozen
by the existence of the bomb. It was a very perverse blessing. Mutually assured destruction is a terrible thing. But, you know, it worked. We
didn't have a major conflict with the Soviet Union, and there is a pretty good bet that we would have if it hadn't been for the ability of each side
to destroy each other. So, it's a perverse blessing, but it was a blessing. It blocked a kind of cold piece.
ISAACSON: Well, it's been 77 years, almost, since a bomb was used in combat. Do you think that Hiroshima and Nagasaki sort of stunned people so
much that it is one of the few weapons we have that we would no longer think of using?
THOMAS: Yes. And I fear that the stunned gun is going to wear off. That's been so long. 77 years is a long time. People will forget. And they will be
willing to use one of these things. You know, the conventional warhead on U.S. IPCM that was 200 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. There are
these tactical weapons with the Russians -- you know, you hear the Russians, you hear a little talk about the Russians might actually use one
in Ukraine that are smaller than Hiroshima, but they are still nuclear weapons. They still horrible weapons that kill people with radiation and
incredible blasts. You know, they are unthinkable weapons, still.
ISAACSON: Evan Thomas, thank you so much for joining us.
THOMAS: Thanks, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, from one of the darkest moments in humanities history to a shining star 28 billion light years away. This is the most
distant star ever seen, now caught on camera by NASA's James Webb Telescope. But it is not the one you might think it is. No, you really have
to zoom into spot it. The Webb's telescope has also gifted us a moment of celestial acrobatics this week known as the Cartwheel Galaxy. Its
appearance was caused by a collision of galactic proportions.
Wow, take a look at those pictures.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from New York.